Mayday!

Guerrilla Gardening
RTS Mayday Action
This is not a protest!

Guerrilla gardening is a way to reclaim open space, protect biodiversity, enhance food security and challenge capitalism.

For live reports see www.indymedia.org.uk

Millennial Media Moment: 15/04/2000 Protests against the IMF get equal billing on BBC World with the largest ever points fall on Wall Street. And some inspired engineer adds, very quietly in the background to the most annoying pair of dickhead "financial journalists" in the world, the Monty Python classic Always look on the Bright Side of Life.

At last, information about what the hell is going on with RTS on May 1st.

No doubt some of you will love it and some of you may even hate it. We hope that all those with positive energy for this will get involved in some way. In fact it is essential that you do - otherwise it will simply not work. More details below.


  1. What is Guerrilla Gardening?
  2. Mayday RTS action flier text
  3. What do we need to make this action happen?
  4. Rumours of it happening elsewhere.
  5. Guerrilla Gardening (aka Community Gardening)
    • Background from Avant Gardening -  Ecological struggle in the city and the world.
    • Press release from recent demonstration against garden closures and police brutality in New York City
  6. Further info
  7. If you are NOT into the idea of Guerrilla Gardening after all that...
  8. And don't forget the Mayday conference is taking place the whole weekend before.

The following article first appeared in Green Anarchist Autumn 1989 The Green and Black economy edition and appears in the booklet Land and Liberty* by Graham Burnett. The first part has been edited down a little!

This is also a reminder that though the RTS Guerrilla garden may turn out to be short-lived, Guerrilla Gardening should be a long term "occupation".

Guerrilla gardening

Learning to produce our own food is both essential if we are to ever truly take control over our own lives, and is implicitly a threat to capitalism as it makes a start towards breaking free of the cycle of supply and demand, liberating us from the role of passive consumers alienated from a real understanding of the nature of the world around us and the most important aspects of our day to day survival.

Of course the first prerequisite for growing food is land, the acquisition of which is financially beyond the means of most of us, something the Ruling class have had sewn up for centuries, even long before the Enclosures Acts of the 1600s. But there are always holes-spaces, in which we can move, call it the black economy, call it the green economy. [Lets' call it the red, green and black economy.]

Guerrilla Gardening:

Apply a little vision to the land around you: railway embankments, back gardens, golf courses, car parks, overgrown bits of land at work-place and so on. Then give a little thought to clandestine cultivation. The only limits are those of your imagination; herbs that thrive on poor soils could be grown amongst the thistles, rose bay willow herbs and boodle on "desolate" bomb-sites; a little known hole in a fence well remembered from childhood explorations could give access to your local rich bastard's grounds. Sow your seeds here amongst the undergrowth or venture further and indulge in some scrumping from his [or her] orchard. Even if squatting empty property in your area is not an option (hello Neighbourhood Watch) maybe the back garden can still be put to use with a bit of cunning and stealth, or maybe seldom visited corners of local parks and gardens or even churchyards? How about the flower beds that adorn your town centre if they're not too well looked after, you could be growing your crops right in the heart of the consumer landscape of the burger bars, chain stores and supermarkets.

Such secret gardens could be maintained with the minimum of effort small amounts of compost could be carried in bags and weeds could be largely left alone except where they threaten to engulf your crop as they provide camouflage for your activities. Nor would you have to bother with orderly, tidy rows. A mornings cycle tour of a few favourite spots could supply you with a weeks supplies, especially if you take advantage of all the free food that grows wild nettles, ransoms [Allium ursinum which may mean "bear garlic"], dandelions, chickweed, nuts, berries, and some mushrooms and fungi.

Clandestine farmers are out there now. Why not join them in digging for revolution?


Flier text for RTS action

MAYDAY 2000

THIS IS NOT A PROTEST!

RECLAIM THE STREETS
MEET 11am 1/5/00
PARLIAMENT SQUARE

This action is just one of many taking place in London, around the UK and across the planet. Other London events include a three day anti-capitalist conference, City wide autonomous actions and a very big surprise for the Millennium Dome!

020 7281 4621 www.reclaimthestreets.net

Peoples Global Action - Our resistance is as transnational as capital - www.agp.org

London: at the heart of global capitalism, for hundreds of years dedicated to the reckless pursuit of profit for the few at the expense of people and ecosystems everywhere...

But change is fuelled by the diversity and dynamism of cities. They are places where our future will be lost or won and where everyone can grab a piece of the action...

MAYDAY 2000 a global day of action against capitalism.

MAYDAY is RED for international workers' day; GREEN for Beltane, the ancient fire and fertility festival that signals transformation and rebirth; and BLACK for the anarchists executed for their part in trying to bring about a shorter working day with enormous strikes on Mayday 1886.

MAYDAY is a time when RED, GREEN and BLACK converge - a catalyst for hope and possibility...

MAYDAY is our day a day to celebrate the reality of our desires...

Less than a year ago, on June the 18th, financial centres on every continent were rocked by people resisting the devastation of their lives by a bankrupt economic system.

Five months later on November the 30th, as the legislators of Global Capitalism the WTO (World Trade Organisation) tried to meet in Seattle, tens of thousands shut down the meeting, and once again simultaneous actions erupted across the planet.

This was just the beginning. Diverse groups and movements across the planet are converging to overthrow their common enemy: capitalism.

The seeds of an unprecedented
global revolution
have been sown...


Reclaim The Streets contribution to MayDay in London is a mass Guerrilla Gardening action!

Armed with trowels, seeds, and imagination, the idea is to garden everywhere and anywhere.

An urban adventure at the threshold of nature and culture, Guerrilla Gardening is about taking back our own time and space from capital. Guerrilla Gardening is creative autonomous work, work that is about LIVING, not "working" to "make a living".

Picture thousands of Guerrilla Gardeners, they have come to take back what was once theirs, to transform a symbol of capitalism, to return urban land to its real usefulness - as provider of food, as public space where people meet face to face, discuss and participate directly in the remaking of their own city.

Resistance is fertile

GUERRILLA GARDENING IS NOT A STREET PARTY

It is an action demanding everyone's participation and preparation. An adventure beyond spectating!

Come prepared, and ready to get your hands dirty. Bring with you everything you need to make a Guerrilla Garden: a sapling, vegetable seedlings, flowers, herbs, subvert the packaging of capital: turn designer trainers into plant pots, traffic cones into hanging baskets... Start planting now ...

Direct action is about taking control of every aspect of our own lives, the homes we build, the food we eat the way we travel, the culture we enjoy, the games we play - its not just about the occasional protest but about taking power away from the politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats, and participating immediately and directly in radical social and ecological change.

COME PREPARED! START SOWING THE SEEDS NOW!

For top Guerrilla Gardening tips go to www.primalseeds.org


Prepare NOW for Mayday!

Seedlings - essential for everyone to take part if this action is to work.

You need to plant seeds NOW if they are to be a decent size by Mayday.

Never done it before?

Beginners' guide to getting seedlings ready (and if we can do this anyone can): Pop the seeds in some seed compost, water a little, give them as much light as possible, inside home on a warm window sill preferably - and wait for them to germinate. With some of them it helps to pop a piece of plastic over them with an elastic band to secure. Once they have germinated take the plastic off!  If they are in tiny containers you need to transfer them into bigger pots. Almost anything can be used as long as you make drainage holes. Specific seeds like specific conditions and there should be details from the back of your seed packet. Then you need to water a little more, watch them grow and make sure that they don't die before May 1st.

You also need more seeds to give out before the action and on the day. Seeds are especially easy to liberate from places such as B&Q, Homebase, Woolworths and even some supermarkets.

Compost: seeds do germinate much more successfully in special seed compost but it is certainly not essential. Most good soil will do the job with most seeds. Containers are even easier to get hold of and don't forget to bring them along on the day in your subverted and transformed ex-image of capitalism.

Oh yes - and save some for yourself too so that you actually get to harvest some in your own guerrilla gardens.

Happy planting.

Find out more...

We have a whole list of things that are needed for the action and various ways that you can get involved in the organising including: networking, prop making, collecting all the things that we need for the garden transformation - plant donations and saplings especially useful.

If you're in the London area, why not come along to an RTS meeting to find out more? If you are coming along for the first time then please introduce yourself and stay for a chat afterwards as the meetings themselves don't give us a chance to get to know everyone.

RTS meetings currently take place at the Cock Tavern, Phoenix Road - behind Euston Station - on Tuesdays nights at 7pm. Check RTS answering machine for changes: 020 7281 4621.


A quick wish list

People should bring these things to RTS meetings each week as well as storing as much as possible at their own homes until the week before. It will be obvious which things we need as soon as possible.

  • Containers of all types  especially those that had a previous life linked to obvious capitalistic companies e.g. oil drums, Nike trainers, washing powder boxes. Subvert them, plant in them and bring them along.
  • Free seeds to give out - lots - please bag up all your unused seed from this and previous years, with just a few seeds in each pack and bring them along on the day. Or give out along with fliers.
  • Garden trowels
  • Information and boards: we have the permaculture ones but would need more general boards about Guerrilla Gardening, self build, permaculture, forest gardening, LETS schemes, allotments, how to grow your own food cheaply or free, genetic engineering and general agri-business, sustainable cities, saving seeds. We need people to take on making these.
  • Old carpets - lots
  • Plastic sheeting for cloches and mini greenhouses
  • Paint (oil based) and brushes for signs and possibly tyres
  • Pallets
  • Plastic bottles
  • Plants, seedlings as mature and as many as possible  everyone should start planting now!
  • Rags
  • Raspberry canes etc
  • Regular tools  hammers, nails, etc.
  • Sand - lying around everywhere after builders have finished.
  • Sawdust - free from timber merchants and great for mulch and paths
  • Straw
  • Toilet rolls!
  • Toys for kids areas, face paints etc
  • Top soil
  • Timber  not so essential unless building - but wood for signs and cloches would be good
  • Trees/saplings as many and as varied as possible
  • Trestle tables
  • Volleyball, football, beach balls, hammocks, badminton etc
  • Willow (and Hazel poles) live if possible for willow artwork
  • Woodchips: great for mulching as well as pathways

Materials needed for prop-making:

  • Net curtains
  • Aluminium hollow poles
  • Steel wire (5mm)
  • Old estate agents' For Sale signs - they are strewn everywhere
  • Paint and fabric

Rumours abound...

...that Guerrilla Gardening actions are being planned in various cities around the UK for Mayday 2000. If you find out that there is one happening in your city then let us know. Similarly if you are now hoping to get one going in your town/city - let us know if you want us to let others know!


Guerrilla Gardening (aka Community Gardening) in New York City

This background is taken from Avant Gardening:  Ecological struggle in the city and the world.* - chapter entitled "Clearcutting the East Village".

In the past year, the East Village, along with the rest of New York City, has witnessed scenes one would expect from the Amazon rainforest of Soviet Russia; bulldozers flattening trees and artwork, backed by armies of police holding an outraged populace at bay, as the city destroys their neighbourhood gardens.

...

New York's community gardens were built up from the rubble of city-owned vacant lots, back in the day when the city was told to Drop Dead and its low income neighbourhoods were considered no go zones, triaged out of the social contract. Thousands of buildings were destroyed, the result of landlord neglect, arson and government "planned shrinkage" politics designed to reduce low income housing stock. In spite of these assaults, neighbors cleaned up the garbage and began to plant gardens atop basements filled up with rubble. No one asked permission: they just cut holes in the fences and started digging. [Guerrilla Gardening!]

The city eventually began a recuperation action, offering "Green Thumb" leases on lots that gardeners had already reclaimed. However, in the spring of 1998, all 741 Green Thumb leases were handed over to the Dept of Housing, Preservation and Development, an errand boy agency for real estate speculators. Now that years of unpaid citizen labour cleaned up the neighborhoods, the garden party is over....?


Press release

Gardeners and Anti-Police Brutality Activists Demand Truth and Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 8, 2000

Sunday March 12th at 1pm community gardeners and anti-police brutality activists unite against violence in their community! They call for release of the truth about last Saturday's brutal events!

Last Sunday March 4th , at 2am, police arrested 8 people and brutalized at least twenty outside the bulldozed Esperanza garden on E. 7th street. The crowd of 150 people had marched to Esperanza from Union Square following a peaceful Mardi Gras festival and spontaneously reclaimed the garden. Although Esperanza community garden was bulldozed by the Giuliani administration two weeks ago, the community has not lost their sense of esperanza (hope)!

The demonstration will be a colorful display showing the outrage felt by gardeners and residents of Loisaida, as well as their supporters and activists from all over the city. Highlights will include: never before seen footage of the brutal police attacks, a street theater reenactment of last Saturdays events, words by Alicia Torres, the founder and guiding spirit of Esperanza Garden, statements by those brutalized and arrested, accounts by witnesses to the violence.

The community is outraged that so much violence has been imposed on our people and our land by the Giuliani administration. Two weeks ago, a garden was bulldozed and 31 were arrested. Last Sunday morning, 8 were arrested, many more were harmed by police. One heavily bleeding man was refused medical attention for 45 minutes, a man's nose and head was clubbed, another man's rib was broken, the whole crowd was pepper sprayed badly burning at least one teenager's eyes, a woman's jaw was dislocated and she was just released from the hospital where she was handcuffed to her bed. Since Saturday, several gardeners and arrestees have been harassed by the police. Dried blood still taints the street in front of the garden of hope. We will transform this!

WHAT: press event and action against the police violence imposed on the peaceful people who re-opened Esperanza community Garden!
WHEN: Sunday March 12th, 1pm Sharp
WHERE: Esperanza Garden - 221 E. 7th Street between Avenue B and C Site of bulldozed community garden and recent police violence.
CONTACT: Isabell/Bill (917) 673-8762


Want to know more about Guerrilla Gardening?

  • Avant Gardening:  Ecological struggle in the city and the world Excellent little book with different chapters from various activists, campaigners, authors, poets and gardeners - mainly about Guerrilla Gardens in New York City. You should be able to order it in any shop. Definitely worth a read. Especially if you are not convinced that Guerrilla Gardening is by its very nature, radical, anti-capitalist and fun! ISBN 1-57027-092-9; published by: Autonomedia in the USA
  • Websites such as www.primalseeds.org
  • Land and Liberty booklet by Graham Burnett - available on most radical bookstalls at alternative events/gatherings etc.

If you are not into the idea of Guerrilla Gardening after all that...

The idea for Mayday is that lots of autonomous actions happen all over the country and in London there will be lots of autonomous action going on all day elsewhere throughout the day. If you are not into the RTS Guerrilla Gardening Action - then don't come along to it and instead why not make the most of the other possibilities, that the tender loving care that the RTS action will be receiving from the police, opens up elsewhere? There are numerous possibilities for autonomous actions, including land, housing & squatting, various capitalist enterprises, women's issues, animal rights, prisons, asylum seekers & the state etc. etc! Get together with your mates, form an affinity group and get planning!

PLEASE NOTE THAT PARLIAMENT SQUARE IS THE MEETING PLACE FOR THE RTS GUERRILLA GARDENING ACTION ONLY!
The RTS action is not a protest


And don't forget...

...the Mayday conference taking place the whole weekend before.

This is a chance for old-timers and newcomers to talk and discuss anti-capitalist ideas and actions.

To find out about the conference:
Post - BM Mayday, London, WC1N 3XX
Office Tel no - 020 8374 5027 (a/machine)
Press enquiries only - 07989 451 096
E-mail discussion list - mayday2000-subscribe@egroups.com
Website - www.freespeech.org/mayday2k

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Updated 01 May 2000