Stop The War March - London
In praise of the profusion of people, peace and pukka placard puns, Jimmy Seed sent this bubbling communique into SQUALL straight after the biggest political demonstration in British history...
15th February 2003
Even if you believe the police, this demonstration was twice as large as any other in British history. And quite possibly one of the legacies of today's phenomenon will be that a larger number of British people will never believe police estimates again. The ol' bill claimed 750,000 people attended - the organisers said two million. Without a shadow of doubt the ol' bill were up to their usual. The only demonstration the Metropolitan Police have not under estimated was last year's police demo against overtime pay cuts. The Stop the War March in London was a tour de force of all ages, all creeds, all social backgrounds. All saying we will not be led compliantly into a war in our name. And without shadow of doubt, the event was also a massive vote of no confidence in mainstream politics. And it thronged long, with the entirety of central London brought to a halt and pedestrians walking in the middle of main roads.
The speeches in Hyde Park were worthy but a little too politician-like for a crowd heavily disillusion with mainstream politics and the usual rhetoric. Ms Dynamite was the best speaker, finishing the day with a well-written poem [I was ready to cringe but instead both I and the crowd cheered] and a song delivered with the kind of a genuinely personal delivery so missing from career politicians.
Also... how poignant it was to see that the stage hosting all the speeches was the latest incarnation of the Wango Riley Stage. Those in the know will remember the Wango Riley as the ever present stage at free festivals and travellers sites around the UK. Until the end of the 'travellers' official presence at Glastonbury Festival, Wango's was the stage in the Traveller Field. So it was a moment of genuine unsung poignancy to see the "Wango's" sign dangling above such auspicious proceedings. By the time the whole event in Hyde Park was over, the March was still filing into the park.
After the event had finished I walked down Grosvenor Place towards Victoria and the entire stretch of road was filled with coaches four deep. In their front windows were notices.... York 17.... Dudley 4.... Penzance 3.... Swansea 15.... Pontadwye 2.... and so it went on. Two hundred coaches came from Birmingham alone....
When I got to Victoria I slipped passed the concierge and weasled my way into a salubrious hotel bar to snatch a quick drink in the only bar not rammed with marchers. We half expected to be thrown out at any minute. Then the BBC news came on a television in the corner of the bar....and the entire contents of the oak panelled room booed when a picture of Tony Blair came on screen. Before managing to bomb Iraq, Blair is shooting himself in the foot.
There's much that has already been said and much that will be said about this demonstration - for unlike many others - it was totally mainstream.
Suffice then to say it provided me with a serious restoration of faith in the impetus of ordinary people not to swallow this self-inflating farce with the same ol' hook line and sinker....
And to pay tribute to the creators of a profusion of original placards which provided both humour and poignancy to an incredible day:
BLOOD IS THICKER THAN OIL
GIVE PEAS A CHANCE
ASSES OF EVIL
AXIS OF OIL
MAKE TEA NOT WAR
BOMBING FOR PEACE IS LIKE FUCKING FOR VIRGINITY
DISGUSTED OF TONBRIDGE WELLS
ASHAMED TO BE BRITISH
TEACHERS SAY SSCHHHH. STOP THE WAR
VIVE LA FRANCE
THIS IS PROBABLY QUITE USELESS
DUMB AND DUBYA
DROP BLAIR NOT BOMBS
DON'T FOLLOW A FOOL
THE ONLY BUSH I TRUST IS THE ONE I GROW
FIGHT THE RICH NOT THEIR WARS
STOP MAD COWBOY DISEASE
G BUSH AND SON - FAMILY BUTCHERS
HOUSE MUSIC AGAINST THE WAR
FRODO HAS FAILED (with a photograph of Bush wearing a gold ring)
SADDAM IS NOT OSAMA
SMOKE BUSH NOT IRAQ
STOP THE SON OF A BUSH
DYSLEXICS AGAINST THE RAW
EASY MATE SETTLE DOWN
(check out the Gallery Section of the SQUALL website for good quality photos of the event)