Interview with a spacehijacker

Originally published early in 2008.

In September 2007, you proclaimed “the spacehijackers own a tank and plan to use it”. What was the target?

The plan with the tank was to drive it into DSEi (a bi-annual arms fair which happens in the docklands in East London), we then intended to sell of the tank to the highest bidder regardless of morals. If an angry 14 year old ASBO yoof or black block warrior decided to take it on a rampage, then we took no responsibility.

Naturally the police were pretty keen on not letting us follow this plan through, even though the fair itself is well known for having even less moral fibre, with stalls routinely turning up selling illegal weapons and torture equipment.

Our plan mainly was to put the arms fair back on the map of London’s consciousness, and in the pages of the papers, to try and build up support for the arms fair protests.

So, did you use it?

Yes and No. Unfortunately the police managed to find our secret hiding place for the tank a few days before the fair. We then spend 24 hours a day under police watch, with our phones being listened to and agents being followed around.

However in a cunning move, planned on pay as you go phones, we managed to hire a second tank (the bird) for the fair after emptying out everyone’s overdrafts. The plan for the fair went as normal, and our agents met at tank number one (Fredom) then attempted to drive it out to the fair through the 150 odd police that had turned up to block our way. In a beautiful turn of the tables, the police ended up having to form a human shield around the protester vehicles to stop us driving down the road.

They then demanded to perform a roadside MOT check on our tank, which was 100% road legal, we had insurance certificates, DVLA numberplate certificates etc etc etc. Speaking to the traffic policeman on the day, basically they had been informed to find something wrong with the vehicle so as not to let us drive. Lo and behold, after about an hour of faffing, they claimed that a split piece of rubber on one of the axles made the vehicle un-roadworthy and wouldn’t let us drive.

I climbed up onto the turret of the tank and had to make an announcement to the crowd and police. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are really sorry to say, that after wasting everyone’s time, the police have decided not to let our tank onto the roads today. However I have just had word that our SECOND TANK has just arrived at canning town round-about next to the arms fair!”

Cue panic amongst the police ranks who had no idea a second tank was on the cards, and cheers from the protesters, who then hopped on the bikes we had provided to rush down to the fair and the tank. The Second tank made it right up to the front doors of the fair, and our auction took place, surrounded by more police as the arms dealers drove in and out of the fair.

In terms of our aims, it gained a lot of negative coverage for the arms fair, with editorial in the London Paper, London Light, Times and Time Out amongst others, we even had a Hijacker Spokesperson pretending to be from the arms fair on the BBC news.

How much did the tank cost you? Was it money well spent?

Tank number one FREDOM, cost us around £6000 including low loader hire and parts etc, the second one cost about £2000 to hire for the day. To be honest, the look on the police’s faces when we announced we had tricked them and that the first tank was a decoy, was worth every penny. We managed to raise a fair chunk of the money running stalls around east London promoting the arms fair protests, and had a number of bands etc selling t-shirts at gigs. The King Mob Blues even promoted the plan at their Reading set. Since the fair we have been holding a load of fundraiser parties to pay everyone back who lent the project money.

Some people accuse you of being a bunch of middle-class art students. How would you respond to this?

Some of us are. Some of us are middle class ex-art students who work in media, some of us are computer programmers, some of us sign on, some of us are barristers, some of us are professional knitters, some of us are nurses, some of us are lingerie models, some of us run independent cinemas, some of us work in schools, some of us build bicycles, some of us are secretaries, some of us make instruments for a living, and one of our group is a porn star and motivational speaker.

As spacehijackers you intend to claim back lost public spaces. What do you say to those who feel that all you do is hijacking anti-capitalist demonstrations and actions?

I think that’s rubbish, with DSEi we have been actively campaigning against it for 6 years, this time there were Space Hijacker agents at every one of the Disarm DSEi planning meetings, our tank fund raiser stalls handed out information and flyers for everyone else’s part of the protests. Fair enough we often get accused of courting the media, but to be honest, sometimes as with DSEi that is our intention. We’re not trying to steal other people’s glory, or hijack their parade, often quite the opposite.

I guess the main thing we get grief over is Mayday (which also happens to be my birthday), when we arrange events that are not part of the A-B marches, and not part of the autonomous bloc. To be honest, I hate marching from A-B and certainly have no intention of doing it on my birthday. If we arrange an event for after the marches, then surely it’s an addition as opposed to a hijack of the march?

At the end of the day, I think the more people doing more things the better, it’s not like there is a fixed percentage of the population who the activist groups have to split between themselves, and our actions are taking people away from others. The more stuff that’s going on then the more people get involved and it helps everyone.

Your stunts remind us of the writings of the situationists. Who are your influences?

Well the S.I. certainly, also people like the Yes Men, The Toy Shop Collective, Etoy, ®™ARK, Reverend Billy, The Vacuum Cleaner, The KLF, Dada, CrimethInc, and loads loads more.

Do you still own the tank and what do you plan to do with it?

Yes we do still own it, and have many plans up our sleeves. Ones which come to mind include borrowing one of our agents children and doing the School Run in it, amongst the SUV’s, we may be turning it into a Starbucks and also painting it up in UN colours and tackling vulture fund managers. I guess watch this space.