The history of the political banner goes as far back as political protest itself. If we exclude trade union banners which were beautifully crafted and highly decorative (and whose design and production were dominated by the firm of George Tutill and thus remained largely unchanged throughout the years) ordinary political banners sought to express as directly as possible a grievance, cause, idea or slogan.
For example the only surviving banner from the 1819 Peterloo Massacre is simply inscribed with the words ‘Liberty and Fraternity’ on one side and ‘Unity and Strength’ on the other. Indeed the Chartists extensive use of banners and flags was a deliberate move to give their demonstrations a coherence and unity rather than being merely an angry rabble or mob.
Although early banners were just extended flags carried on a single pole they were used in exactly the same way we use them today – to identify the cause you were marching under or fighting for, to express a political message and to act as a point of focus to rally round, and later on as a physical barrier defining your boundaries and to block any intrusion by the police.
The Haymarket anarchists excelled in the use of banners. Often accompanied with red flags and black flags their messages were clear, succinct and uncompromising. As Paul Avrich recounted in his book The Haymarket Tragedy: “Two thousand workmen with their wives and children marched through the center of the city to the music of three bands… and innumerable banners carried by the organizations comprising the procession. On the banners were such mottoes as ‘Poverty is a Crime’, ‘Exploitation is Legalized Theft’, ‘Anarchy’.
I’ve been making banners for the movement for over 10 years now. The idea is that we should be able to produce our own professional looking banners without having to rely on commercial companies to do it for us. These are just some of the more recent ones.
- Existence is Resistance Eviction of the Square Social centre (2006) and at Heathrow Climate Camp (2007) Climate Camp photo: thealmightyprophetgitboy
- Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services demo (2010) photo: HADPC
- Fraud Visteon workers final victory march away from the factory gates (2009) This was one of five banners I did for the Visteon workers dispute
- Guilty Guilty Guilty Guilty Justice for Ian Tomlinson demo (2010) Photo: Rikki at Indymedia
- Anarchist Bloc N9 National student demo (2011)
- This is Anti-Fascism Memorial for Nikita Kalin (2012) Photo: ALARM
- Militant Workers Bloc The anarchist bloc on the Put People First march (2009) photo: Maqui at Indymedia
- Vestas Occupation Banner drop on Venture Quays dockside building, East Cowes (2009) photo: Tim Dalinian Jones
- Up Against The Wall Put People First march (2009) Photo: Rikki at Indymedia