Project documentations, in: Florian Haydn, Robert Temel (Ed.): Temporary Urban Spaces. Concepts for the Use of City Spaces, Birkhäuser: Basel 2006, pp. 128–269
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Excerpt p. 139:
Reclaim the Streets!
The concept of Reclaim the Streets! is simple: For a short time public space should be taken over, namely with the help of a large number of bodies, with creativity and music. In doing so, to make police interference less probable, it has to be friendlier than conventional political demonstrations but at the same time cause enough disturbance to the daily routine of traffic and consumers. The concept originated in London in the mid-1990s and was mainly concerned with the criticism of automobile traffic. The starting point were the numerous occupations of construction sites belonging to a large road construction programme in the early 1990s, which began with the occupation of a building site at an access ramp of the M11 motorway (since opened) which went through a residential area in London, reaching the city in 1993 and brushing ecological and social concerns aside. Daily vehicular traffic forms one of the foundations of London’s economy, as in every European city, which is why the negative consequences are barely given any attention. Against this background it was possible to make the concerns of the unregistered street parties plausible to the middle-class press and hence to a broader public in general. The various party locations spread out at short notice via telephone or by word of mouth, just like with raves. The Criminal Justice Act was introduced in 1994 to deal with this and other new kinds of civil disobedience, and allowed for the breaking up of parties, thus becoming a point of attack for Reclaim the Streets! Reclaim the Streets! wants to open up the street, which is common property but now designated as ‘enclosed’, to the public at large by denying it to drivers. It is therefore not just ecological concerns which matter, but criticism of capitalism as well. At the latest since the global action day on 16 May 1998 the Reclaim the Streets! principle has been copied around the world, especially in European, American and Australian cities.
(Translation: Steven Lindberg)