Sunday, April 30, 2017

May Day 1894: Peckham anarchists in Hyde Park

'The May Day demonstrations - The London anarchists - Violent scenes'

'A demonstration arranged by the Social Democratic Federation was held today in Hyde Park. The processionists, who did not exceed 3000 in number,  were for the most part orderly, and included contingents from Camberwell, Hammersmith, Bow, Bromley, Deptford, Greenwich, etc. Among the speakers were Dr Aveling, Messrs Keir Hardie, W Morris, J H Watts, P Curran. Congratulatory telegrams were sent to workers assembled throughout the world urging them to neglect no means towards their emancipation from wage slavery, and to work unceasingly for the establishment of the international co-operative Commonwealth, in which all the instruments of industry will be owned and controlled by the organised communities. The International Anarchist Communist group from Peckham brought a black banner inscribed "away with authority and monopoly, with free access to the means of life".

The Commonweal Anarchists held a meeting close to the Federation meeting place. At one platform a speaker was hurled from his place and the red flag was torn to pieces, but, protected by the police, the speaker managed to escape before receiving further injuries. Several disturbances occurred, but none of a serious character. There was a large body of police in attendance. After the excitement had subsided the anarchists restarted the meeting, when speeches were delivered by Samuels, Mowbray, and Louise Michel, who was followed by a man named Tochatti. He was frequently interrupted with cries of "shut up" and finally thrown to the ground by a crowd, by whom he was roughly handled. The police, after much exertion, rescued Tochatti and started him in the direction of the marble arch, where he was again set upon, and received several ugly blows on the head and face. The police again intervened, and to Tochatti was eventually placed in a cab in a very exhausted condition and driven away.

(Daily Express, 2 May 1894; James Tochatti (1852-1928) was a Scottish-born anarchist living in Hammersmith. For more on the Peckham anarchists of this period see Pressure Drop in Peckham by Nick Heath at libcom; the Paris Communard exile Louise Michel's time in South London is covered in this earlier Transpontine post; see also William Morris and South London)

My historical overview of 'May Days in South London' (50 page pdf pamphlet) is available as a free download here

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