Reclaim the Streets

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{theory, work, human}
{city, large, area}
{car, race, vehicle}
{day, year, event}
{black, white, people}
{group, member, jewish}
{law, state, case}
{government, party, election}
{war, force, army}
{system, computer, user}

Reclaim the Streets (RTS) is a collective with a shared ideal of community ownership of public spaces. Participants characterize the collective as a resistance movement opposed to the dominance of corporate forces in globalization, and to the car as the dominant mode of transport.



Reclaim the Streets often stage non-violent direct action street reclaiming events such as the 'invasion' of a major road, highway or freeway to stage a party. While this may obstruct the regular users of these spaces such as car drivers and public bus riders, the philosophy of RTS is that it is vehicle traffic, not pedestrians, who are causing the obstruction, and that by occupying the road they are in fact opening up public space. The events are usually spectacular and colourful, with sand pits for children to play in, free food and music.[1] A Temporary Autonomous Zone sometimes results. The style of the parties in many places has been influenced by the rave scene in the UK, with sound systems playing dance music.

Reclaim the Streets is also as a term used to denote this type of political action, regardless of its actual relation to the RTS movement.


The earliest written source for the phenomenon "reclaim the streets" can be found in Marshall Berman's (1981) All That is Solid Melts Into Air. In a chapter entitled "Modernity in the Streets" Berman writes:

"At the ragged edge of Baudelaire's imagination we glimpsed another potential modernism: revolutionary protest that transforms a multitude of urban solitudes into a people, and reclaims the city streets for human life. . . Thesis, a thesis asserted by urban people starting in 1789, all through the nineteenth century, and in the great revolutionary uprisings at the end of World War One: the streets belong to the people. Antithesis, and here is Le Courbusier's great contribution: no streets, no People." (pp. 166-167, emphasis added)

Streets have many times been occupied with the intent of using them for other things than traffic. For example, a group of environmentalists occupied the streets of central Stockholm in autumn 1969 [2]. And in 1990-91 the same group arranged a tradition of 20 minutes "culture crashs" in busy street crossings [3]. Like other occupations against car traffic before 1991, these events were not called Reclaim the Streets.

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