Shoppers stood in amazement when demonstrators entered the shop accompanied by the Rhythms of Resistance samba band. With the crack of drums echoing around the building, activists unfurled a huge banner spanning the checkouts saying ‘All we have to lose is our chainstores.’
According to Fermin Fernandez, one of the Precarity Network organisers, ‘the reaction of the workers and customers was good, and they enjoyed the samba band. The fact that it was in Hackney, one of London’s most deprived areas, meant that people were responsive to our message. We were saying that people in precarious situations need to be responsible for changing their own situation through action.’
The Community Support Officers on the scene were initially powerless to act, but reinforcements soon arrived and the demonstrators were surrounded, removed from the store and, after two hours, escorted to London Fields, amid accusations of heavy-handed policing. Nine people were arrested. A statement from the Metropolitan Police claimed they had ‘thwarted’ the protest.
This was the first UK May Day event to be organised as a ‘flash mob’ demonstration. Details were announced by text to protesters’ mobile phones an hour before the event, in order to avoid the meticulously planned police operations of previous May Days. In the run up to this year’s action, 750 mobile numbers had been collected by the Precarity Network, but on the morning of 1 May the SMS email account to be used to distribute the information was mysteriously frozen. Nevertheless, activists managed to contact over 500 people.
Tesco was specifically targeted as a symbol of ‘precarity’ at work. Activists accuse the company of exploitative working practices, including paying new employees less than the minimum wage, cutting Sunday pay and ending sick pay. They point to reports of Tesco using immigrant labour under gangmasters to pack its food, and of appalling conditions on Tesco-accredited farms in South Africa. In April Tesco became the first UK retailer to announce profits of over £2 billion. It is thought that the chain takes one in every eight pounds spent in Britain’s shops.
The Hackney action marks a significant change of tactics for the anti-capitalist movement. Previous demonstrations have involved set-piece events in the commercial centre of London. According to activist Bob Black, ‘This action wasn’t about smashing up Tesco and leaving broken glass behind us. There has been a valid critique of the anti-capitalist movement, saying that just smashing-up McDonalds won’t challenge capitalism. We were attacking Tesco from a different angle. To stop this company we look for the issues that unite the workers and the activists, and it comes together around working conditions. This is a progressive development.’
Although the new approach may have attracted less media coverage, Black believes it was a success: ‘There is a perception that the only purpose of May Day is to get in the press. But it’s really about communicating issues. A week after May Day we went back to Hackney and handed out leaflets. We had conversations with workers and shoppers and explained our actions. We showed that we weren’t just an anarchist mob that had come to attack Tesco.’Bob Black and Fermin Fernandez are aliases used to protect the speakers’ identities
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform