Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 26th, 2011

Clearly these Lambeth Teachers' Association workers aren't about to cause any trouble, but rather are discussing what to grow on their allotments.

Yesterday's anti-cuts, union-led march has already made the headlines for mostly the wrong reasons. 'Police battle rioters', 'Luxury stores targeted', 'Hundreds arrested and dozens injured' are just some of the less sensational announcements, designed to sell newspapers. My own experience of the march was completely different. It was a day when I saw the good in people again, where I felt I wasn't the only one despairing or suffering from the threat of savage cuts in public services, and I also saw the real potential for the 'Big Society' - a country united across the usual dividing lines of class, race, and status, against blatant injustice from their government.

Of course, there was always going to be a contingent of radicalised, angry young men and women who felt the need to smash things up and have a go at battering the police. But for the majority of the 250,000 (
BBC estimates) to 500,000 (The Guardian estimates) people like me and my family members who marched to try and speak up for the common good, it was a day of peaceful protest, camaraderie and fellowship.

This feeling of togetherness was illustrated brilliantly in the pub we stopped into on Whitehall (yes, to use the facilities - but we also bought a drink, before you say anything about being heathens). The ladies' toilet queue was positively hilarious. People were striking up conversations over nothing at all, and discussing where they had travelled from and what they did for a living. We even got tired of waiting and -YES WE CAN- comandeered the gents' loo. What made me proud was how very un-British it all was. These people were actually choosing to strike up conversations - and how without fail, most of these conversations ended up with Cameron and Clegg really getting it in the neck.

Suckle Up Economics from our dear leader, the tit.

Whereas the downstairs of the pub was full of protesters, the upstairs was almost empty, save for a few groups of bemused-looking tourists, trying to have lunch. I asked two gentlemen if I could take a photo from the window they were sitting next to. "What is theees all-about?" came the query from one well-dressed middle-aged Italian. I explained that a lot of people were angry with our government, and that because we came from all kinds of backgrounds and had united today to protest, you really knew that the coalition was in trouble. "We can relate to you,"said his friend. I joked that however bad it was, we didn't have the same trouble as the Italians did, having Berlusconi for a leader. They looked shocked that I knew anything of Italian leaders. We shared a good-natured joke about Il Cavaliere. "Che cazzo, eh?" Ah, politics. Really warms the cockles.

Whitehall, yesterday

The march continued down Whitehall and began to slow as we reached Trafalgar Square. The atmosphere was electric. Not knowing what was ahead, the crowd began to get impatient and chants and cheers would break out every now and again, to keep the spirits up. No matter how ebullient we were, however, the pervasive feeling of malevolent surveillance was hard to shake. Sirens and helicopters were heard over our chants throughout. There was definitely an air of preparation for any trouble to be stamped out immediately, and we all knew how many pairs of eyes, both supportive and distrustful, were upon us at all times.

Reports of violence from Oxford Street and some parts of Piccadilly were certainly unnerving, and we knew something was afoot as we passed The Ritz with cracked windows - but for the most part, it felt like a peaceful, inspiring day that had the potential to spark real change. It felt like Britons from all corners of the country finally had a common cause to unite - something which I haven't felt in a long, long time.

Cameron may have had a different 'Big Society' in mind, but yesterday felt big enough to topple his government's shortsighted and irresponsible plans.

For those of you reading this who went, thank you for making it such an incredible day - you have my applause. Please feel free to share your comments below. It would be good to hear from others who had different (or similar) experiences of the day.

Now, let's all keep our fingers crossed for a similar outing planned for April 29th. Wouldn't it be a shame if the royal couple had to elope...?


  1. My non-sensational video-account of the festive and rather disorganised feel of the protests mainly around Oxford St can be seen at, if anyone is up for 4 minutes of quite raw footage, shown as I saw it.

    Interesting and disappointing to see that 0.1% (250 out of 250,000) of the protesters got most of the coverage in the media.

    Anyway, looking forward to the next get-together.

  2. Thanks for the comment Edo - I like your video. I think maybe the atmosphere on Oxford Street was younger, angrier, different. I stayed at the Hyde Park end of things, and perhaps with an older crowd? still - judging by your footage, the most violent anything got was a bit of paint-throwing and a spliff or two. I gather that magnificent TUC horse got burnt later on, though...?