The summer of 1981 saw the most violent and extensive disturbances on Britain’s streets since the war. That was the press’s verdict on the week of July 3rd-11th. And for once the press was right. The barricade, the overturned police van, the milk floats driven at police lines, the burnt out cars and pubs and the looted hi-fi shops – all were something new on the streets of Britain. Above all, the novelty was symbolised in the cascades of petrol bombs. The weapon of Budapest ’56 and Watts ’65, of Paris ’68 and Derry ’69 was now the weapon of Brixton and Southall, of Toxteth and Moss Side. The sequence of riots began before 3 July – 14 months earlier, to be precise, in the St Paul area of Bristol. Police raided a black cafe and attempted to make an arrest. A crowd gathered and soon the police were retreating from the area under a hail of broken bricks. For several hours they did not dare return: shops were looted at will and buildings were burnt down. The biggest confrontation took place in Toxteth, Liverpool. It began with a relatively small disturbance the same night as Southall (3 July): the police tried to arrest a black youth who, they claimed (wrongly) had stolen the motor bike he was riding; a crowd rescued him, but another black, whose family had been subject to a campaign of police harassment, was seized. The next evening rioting erupted on a huge scale. Barricades were built with overturned cars and a builders’ compressor; scores of petrol bombs were thrown at the police; rioters donned Ulster-style masks to avoid identification. The police could not cope. The press reported, ‘the police produced a show of force sufficient to enrage the black population, but not enough to quell the riots’. The streets were barricaded again the next night. ‘By then as many whites as blacks had joined the rioting’.
The Stop the City demonstrations of 1983 and 1984 were described as a ‘Carnival Against War, Oppression and Destruction’, in other words protests against the military-financial complex. Activities that formed part of these events were separate day-long street blockades of the financial district (‘The City’) of London — which supporters of the protest argued are a major centre for profiteering and consequently a root cause of many of the world’s worst problems. One blockade involved 3,000 people, which succeeded in causing a $100m shortfall on the day according to The Times. Around 1,000 arrests were subsequently made by the police over 18 months. The first demo took place on the 29 September 1983 and involved hundreds of protestors, but six months later on 29 June 1984, thousands brought the City to a standstill. This rare documentary by Mick Duffield and Andy Palmer of Crass offers unique footage of the day’s events. Stop the City is widely regarded as being the precursor of modern protest such as the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism in 1999 and the birth of the Anti-Globalisation movement in the 21st century.
Three Croatian activists struggle to change the world. As children, they lived through the violent collapse of Yugoslavia. But now, amid the aftershocks of socialism’s failure, they fight in their own way for a new leftism. In the middle of the struggle, a skeptical American is won over by their cause and even goes to jail with them. The activists, whether clashing with police or squatting in an old factory, risk everything to live their politics. But as the setbacks mount, will they give up the fight? The film, shot during years of fieldwork with a Croatian anarchist collective, applies EnMasseFilm’s unique blend of observation, direct participation and critical reflection to this misunderstood political movement. Its portrayal of activism is both empathetic and unflinching—an engaged, elegant meditation on the struggle to re-imagine leftist politics and the power of a country’s youth.
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