London’s Protest Stickers: Stickers to Live By

Stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of London. I am particularly interested in the ones with a rebellious or subversive tone (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of London. I am particularly interested in the ones with a rebellious or subversive tone (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London’s protest stickers cover a whole range of topics, from housing to race and immigration. However, some of them don’t fit into any specific category, instead embodying a rebellious ethos. This post is about these stickers, the ones providing good advice for anyone with a subversive streak.

This sticker, photographed on the Tottenham Court Road on 03/09/15, seems like a good place to start. Why should anyone else have a say over the way you live your life? (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker, photographed on the Tottenham Court Road on 03/09/15, seems like a good place to start. Why should anyone else have a say over the way you live your life? (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker encourages people to think for themselves- an important quality for anyone involved in social movements or activism (Photo: Hannah Awcock, taken on Waterloo Bridge on 02/06/15).

This sticker encourages people to think for themselves- an important quality for anyone involved in social movements or activism (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Waterloo Bridge, 02/06/15).

This sticker links nicely to the previous one- critical thought is an important ability for academics as well as activists- question everything, never just accept what you are told as the truth. This sticker was photographed outside King's Cross Station, near the British Library, on 06/06/15. The location of a sticker can alter, or highlight, the message of a sticker (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker links nicely to the previous one- critical thought is an important ability for academics as well as activists. Question everything, never just accept what you are told as the truth. This sticker was photographed outside King’s Cross Station, near the British Library, on 06/06/15 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker was photographed in Elephant and Castle on 05/03/15. Even small, everyday acts can be rebellious (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker was photographed in Elephant and Castle on 05/03/15. Even small, everyday acts can be rebellious (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker is a reminder to everyone that your happiness does not depend on the sadness or deprivation of others. The photo was taken on Albany Road, near the occupied Aylesbury Estate on 02/04/15, making it all the pertinent (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker is a reminder to everyone that your happiness does not depend on the sadness or deprivation of others. The photo was taken on Albany Road, near the occupied Aylesbury Estate on 02/04/15, making it all the more pertinent (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This is a question that everyone should ask themselves every once in a while. If you aren't, then what can you do to try and change things? (Photo: Hannah Awcock. 07/06/15, Shoreditch Hight Street).

This is a question that everyone should ask themselves every once in a while. If you aren’t, then what can you do to try and change things? (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 07/06/15, Shoreditch Hight Street).

Activists are often told that their demands are impossible, that they will never achieve the change they want to see. It takes a lot of determination to keep going in the face of all that negativity (Photo: Hannah Awcock. 12/03/15, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury).

Activists are often told that their demands are impossible, that they will never achieve the change they want to see. It takes a lot of determination to keep going in the face of all that negativity. rs21 is a news and analysis website run by British revolutionary socialists (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/15, Gordon Square, Bloomsbury).

Although scratched and torn, it is easy to make out the intent of this sticker. The message-

Although scratched and torn, it is easy to make out the intent of this sticker. The message- “This will be ours,” is a determined statement of intent (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 17/04/15, Gordon Street).

This empowering sticker is a reminder that the government only governs because we allow it to. If everyone decided to act together, it would create a very powerful force (Photo: Hannah Awcock. 20/06/15 Fleet Street).

This empowering sticker is a reminder that the government only governs because we allow it to. If everyone decided to act together, it would create a very powerful force (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 20/06/15 Fleet Street).

This sticker isn't protest-related, but I liked it so much that I had to include it. It makes me smile every time I walk past (Photo: Hannah Awcock. 21/05/15, Borough High Street).

This sticker isn’t protest-related, but I liked it so much that I had to include it. It makes me smile every time I walk past, even if I’m having a bad day. If only all street furniture was so complementary (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 21/05/15, Borough High Street).

You can see the locations of all these stickers on the Turbulent London Map.

Protest Stickers: London Road, Brighton

Like most other cities, stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of Brighton.

Like most other cities, stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of Brighton (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Brighton is a coastal city in the south of England, about an hour away from London by train. It is well known for being an open and accepting city, and it also happens to be my home town, so it’s very special to me. I have written about protest and dissent in Brighton on Turbulent London before, but the city also has an awful lot of protest stickers so I think it deserves (at least) one more post. I took the pictures featured here on a walk down a single (admittedly quite long) road in the city. London Road runs from the city centre to the outskirts in the direction of London, funnily enough. Quite run down when I was younger, the area along the road is going through a rapid process of gentrification, to the extent that is known by some as the Shoreditch of Brighton. Gentrification is frequently a contested process however, and London Road has no shortage of protest stickers.

This is a tile stuck to the wall of a Greggs bakery, so not technically a protest sticker, but I couldn't resist putting it in because I like it so much. London Road is changing rapidly, and not everyone supports the changes.

This is a tile stuck to the wall of a Greggs bakery, so not technically a protest sticker, but I couldn’t resist putting it in because I like it so much. London Road is changing rapidly, and not everyone supports the changes (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Le Turnip produces quite a few satirical stickers, and I have featured some of them before on the blog. This one apes CCTV warning signs, but refers to Sauron, the personification of evil in the Lord of the Rings. Sauron's eye sits atop a huge tower, and can see everything that goes on in Middle Earth.

Le Turnip produces quite a few satirical stickers, and I have featured some of them before on the blog. This one apes CCTV warning signs, but refers to Sauron, the personification of evil in the Lord of the Rings. Sauron’s eye sits atop a huge tower, and can see everything that goes on in Middle Earth (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Many of the issues protested in London Road stickers are similar to those in London. This striking sticker criticises the reliance of the state on police forces. Brighton generally has an anti-authoritarian vibe.

Many of the issues protested in London Road stickers are similar to those in London. This striking sticker criticises the reliance of the state on police forces. Brighton generally has an anti-authoritarian vibe (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The anti-authoritarian vibe is also played out through this sticker, variations of which are common throughout Brighton, not just in London Road. The dome which the cannabis leaf is imposed on is frequently used as a symbol of Brighton. It comes from the Brighton Pavilion, a palace built by George IV.

The anti-authoritarian vibe is also played out through this sticker, variations of which are common throughout Brighton, not just in London Road. The dome which the cannabis leaf is imposed on is frequently used as a symbol of Brighton. It comes from the Brighton Pavilion, a palace built by George IV (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Another cause close to the hearts of many Brightonians is environmentalism. The city elected the first ever Green Party MP in 2010, and had one of the first Green-run councils in the country.

Another cause close to the hearts of many Brightonians is environmentalism. The city elected the first ever Green Party MP in 2010, and had one of the first Green-run councils in the country (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Some stickers along London Road are about less familiar issues however. Most of this sticker has been obscured, but it is still possible to make out that it is declaring solidarity with the zapatistas, a topic which I have not seen in a London sticker yet.

Some stickers along London Road are about less familiar issues however. Most of this sticker has been obscured, but it is still possible to make out that it is declaring solidarity with the Zapatistas, a topic which I have not seen in a London sticker yet (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Unfortunately, not everyone in Brighton is liberal and accepting, this sticker declares a vicious anti-immigration stance in support of UKIP. This was not the first time I have seen this sticker around the city, and I must admit I have removed them from the streets in the past.

Unfortunately, not everyone in Brighton is liberal and accepting, this sticker declares a vicious anti-immigration stance in support of UKIP. This was not the first time I have seen this sticker around the city, and I must admit I have removed them from the streets in the past (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The location of stickers can sometimes be important. These stickers were on the entrance to the London Road open market, which has fish stalls.

The location of stickers can sometimes be important. These stickers were on the entrance to the London Road open market, which has fish stalls (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

There are many people in Brighton who are not afraid to be different. Nevertheless this sticker accuses people of being sheep, blindly following the herd.

There are many people in Brighton who are not afraid to be different. Nevertheless this sticker accuses people of being sheep, blindly following the herd (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Just like in London, protest stickers in Brighton are subject to the ravages of time. It is just possible to make out that this sticker is calling for the boycott of Israeli goods, although the colours have faded and most of the letters have worn away.

Just like in London, protest stickers in Brighton are subject to the ravages of time. It is just possible to make out that this sticker is calling for the boycott of Israeli goods, although the colours have faded and most of the letters have worn away (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Anti-fascism is another prominent issue in Brighton, largely due to the March for England demonstrations that are frequently held in the city. This stickers adapts the norm anti-fascist logo to reflect the city's large LGBTQ population.

Anti-fascism is another prominent issue in Brighton, largely due to the March for England demonstrations that are frequently held in the city. This stickers adapts the normal anti-fascist logo to reflect the city’s large LGBTQ population (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The March for England events draw participants and opponents from elsewhere to Brighton.  This stickers comes from Southampton, a city along the coast to the  west.

The March for England events draw participants and opponents from elsewhere to Brighton. This stickers comes from Southampton, a city along the coast to the west of Brighton (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London’s Protest Stickers: Anti-Police

The Metropolitan Police are a common sight across London today, but for a long time their survival was far from garunteed.

The Metropolitan Police are a common sight across London today, but for a long time their survival was far from guaranteed (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London has the distinction of being home to the oldest professional police force in the world. The Metropolitan Police was formed in 1829 in an attempt to impose order on the chaotic and undisciplined city. Their primary purpose was to deter crime, but they became involved in the policing of protest in 1830. Ironically, the first protest in which the police were involved was an anti-police demonstration on the 28th of October 1830. Demonstrators chanting ‘No New Police’ clashed with the boys in blue at Hyde Park Corner. The British people had long been hostile to the idea of a professional police force, so the Metropolitan Police faced an uphill battle convincing Londoners that they were necessary. Ever since then, the Met has had an uneasy relationship with some Londoners. Radicals have always been particularly critical, especially in regard to the policing and control of protest. Disapproval and mistrust of the Metropolitan Police is reflected in London’s protest stickers.

You can see the locations of the stickers on the Turbulent London Map.

One of the most common ways of expressing anti-police sentiment is with the acronym ACAB

One of the most common ways of expressing anti-police sentiment is with the acronym ACAB, which stands for ‘All Cops/Coppers Are Bastards’. In most cases, the acronym’s meaning is not spelled out, but this sticker is particularly obliging, so it seemed like a good place to start the post (Regent’s Canal Tow Path, 20/05/15).

ACAB crops up frequently, in various fonts and colour schemes. In most circumstances though, you would need to know what the acronym means to understand the sticker's message (King's Cross Station, 27/05/15).

ACAB crops up frequently, in various fonts and colour schemes. In most circumstances though, you would need to know what the acronym means to understand the sticker’s message (King’s Cross Station, 27/05/15).

The text on this sticker is difficult to make out, but it reads 'Kill the cop inside you... and then the fun begins' (Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

The text on this sticker is difficult to make out, but it reads ‘Kill the cop inside you… and then the fun begins’ (Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

The previous two stickers refer to police in general. This sticker refers to the Metropolitan Police specifically, calling it the biggest gang in London (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 12/03/15).

The previous three stickers refer to police in general. This sticker refers to the Metropolitan Police specifically, calling it the biggest gang in London (Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 12/03/15).

This sticker is even more specific. (King's Cross, 06/06/15).

This sticker is even more specific. Henry Hicks died after being chased by two unmarked police cars in December 2014. This sticker is calling for support in the campaign to get justice for Henry (King’s Cross, 06/06/15).

This sticker also relates to the Henry Hicks campaign, but contains much less information (Tolpuddle Street, Islington, 20/05/15).

This sticker also relates to the Henry Hicks campaign, but contains much less information (Tolpuddle Street, Islington, 20/05/15).

This sticker also relates to a specific case. Ian Tomlinson famously collapsed and died after being struck by a police officer at the 2009 G-20 protests. AN inquest found that he had been unlawfully killed (Kennington Park Road, 04/06/15).

This sticker also relates to a specific case. Ian Tomlinson famously collapsed and died after being struck by a police officer at the 2009 G-20 protests. An inquest found that he had been unlawfully killed (Kennington Park Road, 04/06/15).

There has been a lot of controversy over the pat few years over the policing of student protest. This sticker refers to a campaign to ban police from university campuses (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

There has been a lot of controversy over the pat few years over the policing of student protest. This sticker refers to a campaign to ban police from university campuses (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

(Senate House, 17/03/15).

I found this sticker close to Senate House, part of the University of London, which suggests it may also be connected to the controversy over student protest. The writing is not easy to make out; it reads ‘Total Policing- Total Nobs.’ (Senate House, 17/03/15).

(Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

Some stickers feature the logos of the groups who produced them. This sticker was made by the 161 Crew, a Polish anti-fascist group (Malet Street, Bloomsbury, 17/03/15).

(Westminster Bridge, 20/06/15).

This sticker reworks the logo of the Metropolitan Police, filling it with criticisms of the police force, including terrifying, intimidating, abusive and petty (Westminster Bridge, 20/06/15).

Sources and Further Reading

Ascoli, David. The Queen’s Peace: The Origins and Development of the Metropolitan Police 1829-1979. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1979.

Protest Stickers: New York City

Like in London, stickers of various kinds are ubiquitous in New York.

Like in London, stickers of various kinds are ubiquitous in New York (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

A few months ago, I visited New York on an undergraduate field trip. As I explored the city, I took pictures of protest stickers as I do in London. This post is about some of the stickers that I saw. At first I thought that explicitly political stickers were less common in New York than London, as it took me quite a while to find any. However I discovered that in some areas, such as the East Village in Manhattan, protest stickers are just as common as in London.

I spotted this sticker in several locations around the city. It is advertising a demonstration that was due to take place several weeks after I was in New York. The treatment of the city's citizens, especially black citizens, by police has resurfaced as a contentious issue in recent months.

I spotted this sticker in several locations around the city. It is advertising a demonstration that was due to take place several weeks after I was in New York. The treatment of the city’s citizens, especially black citizens, by police has resurfaced as a contentious issue in recent months (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Some issues that are common subjects of protest stickers in London also occur in New York, like this one advocating a boycott of Israel.

Some issues that are common subjects of protest stickers in London also occur in New York, like this one advocating a boycott of Israeli produced goods (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Other issues are unique to the US, such as this sticker declaring that 9/11 was the result of a conspiracy. It looks as if it has been scratched with a key or something similar in an attempt to obscure the image, suggesting the controversy of this kind of opinion.

Other issues are unique to the US, such as this sticker declaring that 9/11 was the result of a conspiracy. It looks as if it has been scratched with a key or something similar in an attempt to obscure the image, suggesting the controversy of this kind of opinion (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker plays on the iconic posters from Obama's campaign during the last election, but replaces the image of Obama with that of a protester in a V for Vendetta mask.

This Occupy sticker plays on the iconic posters from Obama’s campaign during the last election, but replaces the image of Obama with that of a protester in a V for Vendetta mask (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker also refers to Obama. I saw sever different issues of 'The Shadow' whilst in New York.

This sticker also refers to Obama. I saw sever different issues of ‘The Shadow’ whilst in New York (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Anti-fascism was not such a common topic of protest stickers in New York as London.

Anti-fascism was not such a common topic of protest stickers in New York as London, but it is there (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

IMG_7465

This sticker was produced by an organisation called Truth Move, which also produced the anti-fascist sticker above. Anti-fascism and environmental issues are not usually tackled by the same social movement groups; Truth Move is an organisation that argues that equality and democracy come from equal access to knowledge and facts (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

IMG_7470

This sticker is handmade, it looks as if a postage label has been painted over (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I know I am cheating a little bit with this one, it is in the collection in the Interference Archive. But I liked it too much to leave out!

I know I am cheating a little bit with this one, it is in the collection in the Interference Archive rather than on the streets. But I liked it too much to leave out! (Photo: Hannah Awcock)

I like the design of this sticker, and it's topic, mental health is also unusual.

I like the design of this sticker, and it’s topic, mental health, is also unusual (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This sticker, advertising a climate march, could also be found in Spanish, a language with is widely spoken in America and New York.

This sticker, advertising a climate march, could also be found in Spanish, a language with is widely spoken in America and New York (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I love the politeness of this anti-racist sticker in the East Village.

I love the politeness of this anti-racist sticker in the East Village (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Although I do not agree with the sentiment of this sticker, I can't help but admire it's wit.

Although I do not agree with the sentiment of this sticker, I can’t help but admire it’s wit (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London’s Protest Stickers

Stickers are a ubiquitous part of the urban environment, like this sign in Cable Street.

Stickers are a ubiquitous part of the urban environment, like this sign in Cable Street.

Stickers are a ubiquitous part of the urban environment, often more common than graffiti in city centres. They are quick, easy and cheap to produce and put up, so they are an effective way of getting a message across. They are employed for a variety of purposes, such as advertising, art and dissent. The meaning of many is not obvious, they remain indecipherable to all but the author and those with the right knowledge to decode them. They also come in many shapes and sizes, with many different techniques used to produce them. Like graffiti they are meant to be ephemeral, gradually disintegrating under the weight of the weather, idle hands and cleaners. As I move around London I photograph many of the protest stickers that I see, gradually building up a map of dissent in our capital. Below are some of the stickers I have seen.

A free education sticker outside of the University of London Union building in Malet Street on  17/02/15.

A free education sticker outside of the University of London Union building in Malet Street on 17/02/15.

Occupy Parliament Square Sticker seen on the 2/2/15 at King's Cross Station.

Occupy Parliament Square Sticker seen on the 02/02/15 at King’s Cross Station. This sticker has been weathered, picked, and written on- demonstrating how protest stickers can spark political debate.

Some stickers are printed, whilst others look more handmade, like this one seen in Brick Lane on 5/6/14.

Some stickers are printed, whilst others look more handmade, like this one seen in Brick Lane on 05/06/14.

Some stickers advertise a particular protest, like this one in Malet Street, seen on 17/02/15.

Some stickers advertise a particular protest, like this one in Malet Street, seen on 17/02/15.

Not all protest stickers are left-wing, like this one seen at Euston Station on 14/11/14.

Not all protest stickers are left-wing, like this one seen at Euston Station on 14/11/14.

Something as simple as speech bubbles can drastically alter meaning, as with this government advert, seen on 4/2/15 in Elephant and Castle

Something as simple as speech bubbles can drastically alter meaning, as with this government advert, seen on 04/02/15 in Elephant and Castle. These stickers allow a sort of audience participation, so others can add more tax dodging companies.

This sticker has creatively recycled a page from a book to oppose Israel. Seen in Soho on 31/12/14.

This sticker has creatively recycled a page from a book to oppose Israel. Seen in Soho on 31/12/14.

Protest stickers are particularly common in some areas, such Malet Street in Bloomsbury, where the University of London Union building is. This photo was taken there on 17/02/15.

Protest stickers are particularly common in some areas of the city, such Malet Street in Bloomsbury, where the University of London Union building is. This photo was taken there on 17/02/15.

Som stickers can be seen in multiple locations across the capital. This photo was taken outside the Inner London Crown Court in Southwark, but it has also been seen at Euston Station.

Some stickers can be seen in multiple locations across the capital. This photo was taken outside the Inner London Crown Court in Southwark, but it has also been seen at Euston Station.