Political Grafitti in the Innocent Tunnel

The Innocent Tunnel is part of a former railway that runs under a corner of Holyrood Park. The railway is now a cycle path, and the tunnel has become a hot spot for street art and grafitti (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).

The Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway used to run from Newington to Brunstane to the east of Edinburgh. Opened in 1831, the line was built to bring coal in to the city. It started to carry passengers as well, and became very popular. It was known as the Innocent Railway because the trains were pulled by horses. It was quickly overtaken by steam-powered railways though, and closed to passengers in 1847. It stopped carrying goods in 1968, and reopened as a foot and cycle path in the 1980s. The Innocent Railway Tunnel runs for 517m under Holyrood Park and is popular with grafitti and street artists. The entire length of the tunnel is covered with tags, murals, and slogans, and some of it is political.

Trans rights should not be controversial, but unfortunately trans people are facing increasing discrimination and attacks in contemporary society. The trans flag is a symbol of defiance as well as acceptance (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 caused in international outpouring of solidarity (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
‘Slava Ukraine’ means ‘Glory to Ukraine’. It is a patriotic slogan that has gained international recognition over the last year. It looks like the slogan in this piece has been covered up and replaced at least once (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
This mural has also been at least partially covered up, but it is still possible to make out the Palestinian flag under the white paint on the right hand side of the image. Somebody has sprayed “Free Palestine” on top of the white paint, just in case the original message “Scotland stands with Palestine” isn’t clear (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
I feel like this one is fairly self-explanatory (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
ACAB is a well-known acronym amongst radicals and activists. It stands for All Cops Are Bastards (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
‘Cymru Rydd’ means ‘Free Wales’. I have seen slogans for the Welsh Independence movement relatively often around Edinburgh. It makes sense that there would be solidarity between the various UK Independence movements (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/2023).
This one isn’t exactly political, but I like to finish on a positive note! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/02/2023).

Protest Stickers: Melbourne

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Melbourne is famous for its street art (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

This summer, I spent 3 weeks travelling around Australia and New Zealand. I have already written blog posts about Sydney’s Protest Stickers, and the Lennon Wall for Hong Kong in Melbourne. Melbourne has a reputation for being Australia’s most cosmopolitan city. It is also known for its culture, particularly the restaurants, bars, boutique shops, and street art in the city’s Laneways. As it turns out, it’s also pretty good for protest stickers. Like most large cities, Melbourne’s protest stickers address issues on a range of scales, from the local, through the national, to the global. I found some stickers that I have seen elsewhere in the world, and some that are uniquely Melburnian.

There has been a lot of debate recently about free speech and ‘no platforming’. The producer of this sticker is quite confident about the best way to counter fascist beliefs (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This sticker is alluding to Australia’s colonial history. There is no one Aboriginal name for Australia, because there was a large number of Aboriginal communities and societies when Europeans arrived. Aboriginal peoples have suffered extensive hardship, prejudice and discrimination at the hands of Europeans, and although their treatment has improved, there is still a long way to go (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
Fin Free Melbourne is a group that campaigns for the banning of all shark-fin based products in Melbourne, with the ultimate goal of protecting shark species all over the world (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
Climate change is an increasingly popular topic of protest stickers around the world, and Melbourne is no exception (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
The School Strike for Climate is a global movement kickstarted by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. School Strike 4 Climate is an Australian organisation that coordinates strikes around the country (Photo: Hannah Awcock)
Extinction Rebellion is another global climate movement. It started in the UK in late 2018, but now has a strong Australian branch (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
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Be Fair Be Vegan is a US-based campaign group that funds advertising campaigns to promote veganism. Melbourne is just one of the cities in which they have paid for advertising (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
The colours on this sticker have faded, but at one point it would have been the Trans flag (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
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Unfortunately, I sometimes find stickers that promote racist and far-right politics. It seems that I am not the only one who took offence at the message of this sticker however, as someone has tried to erase and obscure it (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
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This sticker has also provoked some debate–words and letters have been removed, covered over and written again to alter its message. Police forces around the world can be controversial, with some appreciating the safety and protection they offer, whilst others think they abuse their power and discriminate against minority groups (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
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This sticker is also criticising the police, alongside prisons and more broadly capitalism. Some of it has been removed, but I can still tell from the colour scheme and blood splatter that it is playing on Kill Bill, the popular 2003 Quentin Tarantino film (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
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This sticker is also criticising capitalism, arguing that workers deserve to keep everything (including wealth) that they generate. I don’t recognise the character in the middle of the sticker
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more comprehensive protest sticker! (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

London’s Protest Stickers: Anti-Police 2

The Metropolitan Police have an uneasy relationship with Londoners, going right back to its foundation in 1829 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, South Bank, 09/10/16).

The relationship between a city and its police force is not often an easy one. London’s Metropolitan Police is the oldest civilian force in the world, and people have been opposed to it since before its foundation in 1829. The Metropolitan Police has been involved in a number of controversies in recent decades, particularly in relation to their treatment of ethnic minorities. In 1999, the Macpherson Report found that the Met was institutionally racist following incidents such as the poor handling of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. More recently, they have been under scrutiny for the manipulative and unethical behaviour of undercover officers investigating protest movements, some of whom started relationships and even had children with the women they were investigating.

I have written about anti-police protest stickers before, but London’s landscape of protest stickers continues to evolve, and new stickers continue to appear.

As ever, you can see where I found all these stickers on the Turbulent London Map.

ACAB is a anti-police acronym that is used all over the world. It stands for All Cops Are Bastards. It is possible that this is just an innocent sticker with a picture of a taxi, but I highly doubt it (Photo: Hannah Awcock, King’s Cross Station, 27/02/16).
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This sticker also uses the ACAB acronym. The #CopsoffCampus hashtag refers to the tendency of universities to call in the police to deal with student protests on campus and in university buildings. Some student activists argue that universities should be police-free spaces. I found this sticker on Malet street, which is lined with buildings belonging to the University of London. There is a high concentration of students in the area, so this reference to student politics here is unsurprising (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 11/12/18).
I took this photo outside Southwark Police Station on Borough High Street. Spaces of authority such as police stations often become spaces of resistance because of their association with power. These protest stickers are a small example of that process (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Borough High Street, 15/07/16).
This sticker has faded, but most of the text is still visible. The faint image in the bottom right corner is a stereotypical police helmet in a red circle with a diagonal line through it (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 03/05/16).
This sticker, and the one below, was produced by Netpol, the Network for Police Monitoring. Netpol monitors public order, protest, and street policing and challenges policing that is excessive of discriminatory. Police Liason Officers (PLOs) have become a common sight at protests over the last 5-10 years. They are approachable and chatty, and ostensibly concerned with the welfare of protesters. Another goal of theirs is intelligence gathering, and their friendly manner is meant to encourage protesters to tell them things that they wouldn’t tell ordinary police officers. This sticker is informing people about this covert goal, and encouraging them not to engage with PLOs (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Tottenham Court Road, 10/01/17).
This sticker is also designed to inform people, this time about their rights when stopped and searched or kettled in a protest. You do not have to give any personal information in these circumstances, but most people don’t know this (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 24/01/17).
Netpol is also involved in the Together Against Prevent campaign, which calls for the end of the Prevent programme. Launched in 2006, Prevent is designed to stop people becoming terrorists, but its critics have accused it of being ineffective at best, and stigmatising and divisive at worst (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Guildford Street, 10/01/17).
A few years ago, a series of protest stickers and advertising posters for bus stops were produced that mimicked the Metropolitan Police’s own style of publicity materials. At first glace, they looked like adverts for the Met, but if you take a second look, their critical stance becomes clear. This sticker is criticising the amount of money spent by the Metropolitan Police on advertising in 2013. Not only that, but it is arguing that the police force is spending that money covering up some of its most systematic problems (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Elephant and Castle, 13/04/15).
Operation Tiberius was an internal investigation into police corruption commissioned by the Metropolitan Police in 2001. Its results were leaked to The Independent in 2014. 42 then serving officers and 19 former officers were investigated for alleged corruption, but the small number of convictions has led some to say that the issue has not been properly dealt with (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Euston Road, 09/02/15).
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I didn’t manage to find a complete version of this sticker, but it is referring to the fact that black people are much more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. In 2017/8, black people were 9.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, an increase from 4 times more likely in 2014/15 (Photos: Hannah Awcock, Elephant and Castle, 15/07/16).

Protest Stickers: New Orleans

Someone got creative with this road sign in New Orleans (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to go to New Orleans. It’s a city I have always wanted to visit, and it more than lived up to my expectations. It is a vibrant city, full of excellent music, good food, and wonderful people. New Orleans is not without its problems however; the city has become increasingly segregated since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and it has an uneasy relationship with one of its most important industries, tourism (I wrote about the problems with AirBnB in New Orleans here). However, it doesn’t seem to be a city that shies away from it’s problems. The protest stickers I found suggest that New Orleans is a city with a healthy political culture, and I’m certain it’s people will never stop trying to make it a better place.

Every so often, I find stickers that other people have altered in some way, either by writing on them or scratching parts off. I found quite a few in New Orleans, suggesting that people might take notice of stickers more there than in other cities. The message of this sticker has been altered to mean the complete opposite of what was originally intended. I’m not sure what it’s referring too, but I found the sticker on Bourbon Street, infamous party street and now major tourist trap. There are several strip clubs on Bourbon Street, and strip clubs are an issue that divides feminists, so it could be about that, but it could also be about something completely different (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
With some careful scratching, this sticker has been transformed from anti-fascist to pro-fascist (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
The message of this sticker has been almost entirely obscured. However, I found the same sticker in other places, so I know that the missing words are “Putin’s penis” (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
It is not clear, but this sticker has been altered to read “Trump is an asset.” As much as I disagree with the altered sticker, I can’t help thinking it’s quite a clever edit. However, it looks as if someone else might have tried to scribble out this altered message too (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
The American President Donald Trump was the subject of quite a few of the stickers I found. Unsurprising really, as calling him a controversial figure would be a major understatement (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This one is a little more subtle in its critique (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This sticker makes use of the popular cartoon Rick and Morty to criticise Trump (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
I think this sticker is particularly clever. The building behind the crime scene tape is the White House (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
Another popular topic of protest stickers in New Orleans was the police. The message of this one is pretty clear (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
Throughout history, the policing of nightlife has often caused tension between authorities and citizens, particularly minority groups (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This sticker plays with the concept of Neighbourhood Watch areas, which is where the logo comes from. The real Neighbourhood Watch programme in the US is run by the National Sheriff’s Association though, so I doubt the anti-police message comes from them. This sticker was made by a group called CrimethInc., an anarchist alliance (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
ACAB is a popular anti-police acronym, it stands for All Cops are Bastards. In the case of this sticker, though, it also means something less contentious (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This sticker also hides it’s anti-policing message by giving a different meaning to ACAB. It’s still a relatively subversive message, though; autonomous communities govern themselves, without any outside interference (Photo:Hannah Awcock).
This sticker adapts the “Refugees Welcome” slogan and symbol that has become popular since the refugee crisis began a few years ago (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This is more of a poster than a sticker, but I liked it, so decided to leave it in. Someone tried to remove it, but the message is still clear (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This sticker links capitalism and climate change, and I think it is quite effective (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
The Equitable Food Initiative claims to work across the food supply chain to get a better deal for farm workers, but it seems someone disapproves. I wasn’t able to find out anything about why that might be (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
I mentioned the debate over strip clubs earlier, and this sticker was obviously produced by someone who likes stripping, for whatever reason (Photo: Hannah Awcock).
This sticker was produced by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) which works to defend individual rights and liberties in the US (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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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’ (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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.’ (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 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.