Hyde Park

Tessa Jowell doesn’t want the Stop the War coalition to hold its next big rally in London in Hyde Park. (It’ll be bad for the grass, apparently). How wrong she is.

Here’s Karl Marx, writing in the Neue Oder Zeitung of 28 June 1855:

We were spectators from beginning to end and do not think we are exaggerating in saying that the English Revolution began yesterday in Hyde Park. The latest news from the Crimea acted as an effective ferment upon this “unparliamentary,” “extra-parliamentary” and “anti-parliamentary” demonstration… At three o’clock approximately 50,000 people had gathered at the spot announced on the right bank of the Serpentine in Hyde Park’s immense meadows. Gradually the assembled multitude swelled to a total of at least 200,000 due to additions from the other bank. Milling groups of people could be seen shoved about from place to place. The police, who were present in force, were obviously endeavouring to deprive the organizers of the meeting of what Archimedes had asked for to move the earth, namely, a place to stand upon. Finally a rather large crowd made a firm stand and Bligh the Chartist constituted himself chairman on a small eminence in the midst of the throng. No sooner had he begun his harangue than Police Inspector Banks at the head of 40 truncheon-swinging constables explained to him that the Park was the private property of the Crown and that no meeting might be held in it. After some pourparlers in which Bligh sought to demonstrate to him that parks were public property and in which Banks rejoined he had strict orders to arrest him if he should insist on carrying out his intention, Bligh shouted amidst the bellowing of the masses surrounding him:

“Her Majesty’s police declare that Hyde Park is private property of the Crown and that Her Majesty is unwilling to let her land be used by the people for their meetings. So let’s move to Oxford Market.”

With the ironical cry: “God save the Queen!” the throng broke up to journey to Oxford Market…

There were riots there in 1866 over franchise reform, and battles with suffragettes in 1914. So it’s a terribly suitable venue for this kind of thing, and it’s ridiculous that the minister for what used to be called national heritage should even think of trying to interrupt this vital radical tradition.

Update! [5.2.2003]: Jowell backs down!

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