A Street Party is in full swing. 1000s of people have reclaimed a major road and declared it a "street now open". Music, laughter and song have replaced the roar of engines. Road rage becomes road rave, as tarmac grey is smothered by the living colour of a festival.
Single issue? Just against the car? For all of the mainstream media's attempt to define it as such, for those involved it expresses much more...
The Street Party, itself reclaimed from the inanities of royal jubilees and state "celebrations", is just one recent initiative in a vibrant history of struggle, both to defend and to take back collective space. From the Peasant's Revolt to the resistance to the enclosures, from the land occupations of the Diggers to the post- war squatters, on to the recent free festivals, peace camps, land squats and anti- roads movement. Everywhere, extraordinary people have continually asserted not only the need to liberate the commons but the ability to think and organise for themselves.
For the city, the streets are the commons, but in the hands of industry and power brokers the streets have become mere conduits for commerce and consumption - the economic hero of which is, of course, the car. A symbol and a symptom of the social and ecological nightmare that state and capitalism create, the car which promises individual freedom ends up guaranteeing noise, destruction and pollution for all. For Reclaim the Streets, the car is a focus - the insanity of its system clearly visible - that leads to questioning both the myth of "the market" and its corporate and institutional enforcers.
With a metal river on one side and endless windows of consumerism on the other, the street's true purpose: social interaction, becomes an uneconomic diversion. In its place the corporate - controlled one-way media of newspapers, radio and television become "the community". Their interpretation our reality. In this sense the streets are the alternative and subversive form of the mass media. Where authentic communication, immediate and reciprocal, takes place.
To "reclaim the streets" is to act in defence of and for common ground. To tear down the fence of enclosure that profit-making demands. And the Street Party - far from being just anti-car - is an explosion of our suppressed potential, a celebration of our diversity and a chorus of voices in solidarity.