“A brilliant spark that will fly through the air and set the vapors of our insurrectionary imaginations alight.”John Jordan, founder of Reclaim the Streets
The Provos, active in the mid-1960s, were a Dutch counterculture movement heavily influenced by anarchism. The Provos undermined the legitimacy of the authorities with nonviolent pranks and happenings designed to provoke violent police responses. A royal wedding in 1965 was the occasion for the most audacious prank. Before the wedding, the Provos spread wild rumors about schemes to dump LSD into Amsterdam’s water supply, drug the royal horses, and the like. The government responded by mobilizing 25,000 troops to guard the royal parade. On the day of the wedding, it took nothing but a few smoke bombs to provoke a massive riot. The Provos also devised a series of White Plans: utopian, often whimsical schemes and policy proposals that targeted absurd and undesirable aspects of capitalist society. The White Bicycle Plan, for instance, called for Amsterdam to ban cars from the central city and to distribute thousands of free, white bicycles for public use. The Provos began implementing the plan by placing fifty white bicycles on the street, which were promptly confiscated by the police, who asserted that free bicycles were an invitation for thieves.