All in all, the Stop The War protest was a fun day out as well as a serious exercise in democracy and (it seems) the only way to get heard these days. I emerged from Hyde Park Corner tube station into pouring rain thinking that it would be as miserable an experience as the tube journey (no Northern or Victoria lines so the Piccadilly line was very overcrowded). Anyway the weather cleared up shortly after I met up with Rachel and the rest of the day was very pleasant.
It was obvious from the beginning that this was going to be a very large demonstration, there were hoards of people at Speakers Corner and the march didn’t get started until about 1:30 PM and people were still arriving. We positioned ourselves close to some excellent drummers to keep our energy up and we were entertained by some performers dressed in funky day-glow skeleton costumes, a bit like a 21st Century Danse Macabre I thought, only funnier.
The route the march took was down Park Lane then down Piccadilly into Haymarket and finally into Trafalgar Square for the rally. That short distance took over two hours which should help give an idea of how many people there were. Sky News was apparently reporting ‘several hundred people’, I heard that the police said there were 10,000 protesters while the organisers claimed 60,000 (George Galloway said it was 100,000). From the ground it was impossible to tell but based on previous demonstrations I guessed (and this is just a guess) between 40,000 and 50,000 people turned up. Both Rachel and I had the foresight to take our hip flasks with us. Mine had Cognac and Rachel’s had whiskey and when you’re shuffling along a few swigs definitely helps. We also had whistles so we could contribute to the drumming and chanting.
Meanwhile, back at Blairwatch H.Q., Tom had the good idea of live blogging the event, the plan being that I’d send pictures from my camera phone and he’d put them on-line. So I put away my digital camera and tried taking pictures on the mobile. I then spent what seemed like the best part of an hour fiddling with the settings in previously unseen menus because although my phone has a nice 1.3 mega pixel camera, you can’t send any picture via MMS which is more than 100 kb in size. Luckily Rachel came to the rescue and sent a steady stream of photos to Blairwatch with her phone until I sorted mine out.
Trafalgar Square was totally packed when we arrived and it was very difficult to move about. However, we did eventually manage to find a way to the top of some steps where we watched some of the speeches. The best speech by far was that of Mark Thomas.
George Galloway too made a rousing speech. The organisers had erected a large video screen so even at the distance we were at, we could see whoever was speaking. The sound was very clear too, so well done to the organisers for that.
When Yvonne Riddley started speaking we took that as our hint to call it a day and locate a nice cosy pub for some refreshment (after a bit of a search we settled on Le Garrick and very nice it was too). After that it was time to brave the tube again and it was even more crowded than before.
I didn’t watch any news reports on television about the event but you can see the BBC report on-line here. You can also see more photos on my Flickr site. Hopefully the demonstration succeeded in showing the Government just how much opposition there is to the Iraq war and to the renewal of Trident. I hope it also sent a warning to Blair about involving himself in the coming war in Iran. The people are no longer buying the bullshit he’s been peddling and they are sick of the continuous wars that will be his legacy.
Anyway it was a fun way to make the point, all the more so by having such good company.
More Bloggage and some nice pictures over at Lenin’s Tomb. There are also good reports from The Disillusioned Kid, The Heathlander and Devises Melting Pot. If I find any more reports I’ll post the links. Feel free to let me know in the comments of any more reports.
Tags: Stop The War, Protest, Iraq, Blair, Bush, 24 February 2007, London