So for my report from Saturday’s Stop The War protest in London. On nearing the start of the protest, I felt a tingle of expectancy. This was going to be a historic day for the UK anti-war movement. Admittedly, I haven’t been a fervent supporter but this was why this march was different, there were tens of thousands of people who had never protested before and felt empassioned enough to attend. Last week the Countryside Alliance’s march brought the upper and middle echelons of society together. It was apparent that today was a more balanced. There were no picnics, hunting horns or talk of the Old Boy’s network. Those converging were a cross-section of the population, voicing their support with a more important theme. Students, Workers, Militants, Pensioners and Families were here – each feeling the bitterness of the US/UK approach.
We stood near the back waiting to move, but an hour passed. What was happening? Chinese whispers started to move through the crowd – the police have cancelled the march; there are just too many people; there’s been an accident. What to believe? After nearly two hours, the police informed us that there were just too many people on the official route and we could advance via the Strand. The scale of the turnout began to be felt as London grinded to a standstill, people were advancing through every side street; roads were being closed to traffic; buses and taxis left abandoned; any free windscreen was filled with anti-war leaflets. As we continued with the masses, tourists looked on bewildered, motorists tooted their support or looked straight forward – not wanting to be involved. We started to learn the chants: “George Bush shame on you, daddy was a killer too.” As Hyde Park approached, the protest became more muted, not knowing what to expect on our arrival. It felt like a festival. Tens of thousands of people were scattered through the park, listening to the discussions taking place near every park bench, others reading their pocket full of leaflets or listening to the speeches. We stayed for two hours and as we left, there were still people arriving, nearly five hours later. The scale was unexpected and the police did their best to distort the figures (between 40,000 and 150,000 – more like 300-400,000). One thing is for sure, there is growing support for this movement and the government cannot refuse to listen this time.