The WOMBLES (White Overalls Movement Building Libertarian Effective Struggles) are a loosely aligned anarchist and anti-capitalist group based in London. They gained prominence in the early 2000s for wearing white overalls with padding and helmets at protests, mimicking the Italian group Tute Bianche.
They should not be confused with the British animated children's television characters, The Wombles from whom they drew their name.
The group was founded by some of those who came together as the September26Collective to organise transport to Prague for actions to disrupt the meeting of the World Bank and IMF, on their return. Since then they have participated, and helped organise, various protests, including the Halloween 2002 protest, and May Day 2001, Thessaloniki, €uroMayDay and Gleneagles. They claim to operate in a "non-hierarchical but self-disciplined way".
"On Mayday 2000 the cops gave [the protesters] a good kicking", their website says. In response to this, the group was started to provide "self-protection from the depredations of the constabulary" (the police).
They have since abandoned their trademark white overalls because they found it made them too visible and open to attack, instead favouring clothing that enables them to be anonymous.
In July 2004 they attended the Peoples Global Action Conference in Jajinci, Serbia. In October 2004 they helped organise Beyond ESF at Middlesex University's Tottenham campus. It was organised as an anti-authoritarian alternative to the European Social Forum, happening in London at the same time.
Relationship with the mainstream media
The WOMBLES quickly became used by much of the UK's mainstream media as a personification of the anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation movements. The Evening Standard in particular decided to 'infiltrate' the WOMBLES before the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Mayday protests in London. Even after the WOMBLES had ceased to organise large scale demonstrations the UK media continued to use their name, as short hand for a "notorious group" of anarchists. For example, the 2006 Sack Parliament demonstration was linked to the WOMBLES in the Daily Mail, whilst the WOMBLES were said to be organising against the G20 according to the Mirror.
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