Tuesday, June 1st, 2010...23:00

Wanna Buy a Tank?

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For Sale. One Space Hijackers Tank. Last seen 01 April 2009 – at London’s G20 demonstrations – steaming down Bishopsgate with Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries blaring from its soundsystem. 11 careful owners all registered on the DNA database. Many of us popped our arrest cherry that day.

Anyone for an APC?

Our mobile oppression palace was bedecked in blue paint and chequered livery. It was adorned with fake CCTV cameras, a gun made from plastic piping and a bumper sticker reading, “How’s My Driving? 0800 FUCK YOU”.

We were all, apart from three of the bicycle outriders, wearing blue boiler suits. We were all, apart from three, arrested on two counts of impersonating police officers. In the run up to the G20 demonstrations, Metropolitan and City Police were briefing that they were “up for it”. National media were doing their best parroting by ramping up the anticipation of expected violence. Depending on which news source you consumed, London was either going back to 1917 Russia or was going to burn like Rome.

As it happened, 36 people were charged for offences ranging from arson [fire in a bin] to assault and violent disorder. Eleven, nearly a third, of that number, were a motley crew of students, performance artists and media tarts known as the Space Hijackers. They had a tank called FREDom that may have caused a bit of a stir should it have been allowed to join the thousands of demonstrators in the City. On hindsight, a six-wheeled 8.5 tonne armoured behemoth crunching through London’s streets might’ve caused a hoo-hah. Especially because the master Hijacker plan was to drive around a bit, get a few photos taken, drive around a bit more, get more photos taken then fuck off to the pub. The arrest was a waste of good drinking time.

FREDom is a bit of a bastard. We once took him out to say farewell to the Chinese – then hosting the 2008 Olympics and thousands of prisoners of conscience within its Great Walls. London was holding a “handover party” in the East End – snatching at the baton of Olympiad glory Beijing and Athens had before them. It’s an expensive baton. Athens spent £9bn on their 2004 games. These days, its sites are derelict tributes to over-excitement. The Faliron complex is now home to squatter camps.

We brought FREDom out to welcome the impending chaos and tragedy the Olympic Games is set to bring to London. We took a page out of our friends in the Free Tibet movement and vowed to Free Hackney. Fred proved himself a formidable beast. His brakes failed and he crashed into a security van. Outside a Hackney street fair. There’s nothing like having to improvise a street show with an armoured personnel carrier in tow.

We originally bought FREDom to auction him off at DSEi. The Defence Systems and Equipment International is the world’s biggest arms fair and it’s held every two years at London’s Excel Centre. Everyone who is anyone in the war business is there. What better idea than to sell arms to arms dealers. If you can’t beat them, at least sell them slightly defunct military technology.

Word got out that the Space Hijackers were planning to buy a tank. A fundraising drive was held and thousands of pounds were raised until one day, a gaggle of Hijackers approached a man in a field.

“Would you like to sell us your tank?”

“Yes. And it’s an armoured personnel carrier.”

The police got wind of this and thought activists owning large articles of military equipment a little bit scary. The day we planned to take FRED out to play, a hundred or so police officers prevented him from even driving down the road. Luckily, we realised very early on that being clandestine with armoured vehicles would be difficult. One team of Hijackers stayed with Fred, the police and the media. The other team accompanied a second, hired, tank to the DSEi arms fair.

“They have a second tank.”

“What?”

“Two tanks.”

And Two Tanks Tuesday was born. Hijackers 1, Rozzers 0.

We suppose we’ve always been a little annoying to those trying to uphold law and order – we’ve been called the “laughing cavaliers of anti-capitalism”. No banners and shouting for us. Super Glue is something we use to build props, not as a means to attach ourselves to national institutions. ‘Proper’ activists can’t stand us either. We’ve been accused of merely throwing parties and fucking each other – of not being serious. But we are deadly serious. The issues that move us are the same issues that move anyone else fighting for social change. Our methods might come from the Dada end of the spectrum and we’re most probably drunk – but that doesn’t mean the shit that you give is bigger and better than the shit we give.

We will miss FREDom. But we need to move on. We’ve had our fun. We’re itching to take on more projects. But we’re not low-maintenance activists. We need money and FREDom is being sold for £7000. Failing gaining a wealthy benefactor who will fund us through our troublemaking, selling FRED is the best way we can see to keep on keeping on.

It’s been amazing being known as that mob with the tank. But we’ve got bigger projects – and one day we’ll be known as that mob what changed people’s attitudes to life.

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This article was originally published on Don’t Panic, 01 June 2010.

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