Yesterday’s march by the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the British Muslim Initiative was a very civilised affair with a whole array of the usual suspects that turn up for this type of demonstration. It is very tempting to stereotype the participants as Guardian reader-type liberals ( or Socialist Workers Party, or the strays from the Ban the Bomb days) but I suspect that demographically this may not be too far from the truth.
There clearly had been volume placard manufacture in the last few weeks together with hours of kneeling on the kitchen floor with felt tip pens making the latest home-made, recycled, nuclear-free zone banners. All of which was espousing a wish to end the war. In these current times of austerity measures and spending cuts, the weather worn, and impotent plea to end the war was modified to highlight what else could be done with the money. Some of the speakers were at great pains to point out that the cause really was humanitarian, but we could build more hospitals if we were not in Afghanistan, and for that matter, cover the university fees of thousands of students over the next ten years. An opportunist ploy to spread support into the vocal and active student population – perhaps get some reflected interest.
The numbers for this year were down on previous years although Stop the War counted 10,000 and Sky News 2000 – I would say it was probably in the middle. The atmosphere was very convivial and had no edge to it suggesting no sense of urgency or true emotion – it felt as though they were going through the motions. This was like the annual pre-Christmas walk through the park.
After the rally, the White Flag Revolution took place – their leaflet heralding the shutdown of Whitehall and Westminster. Everyone was requested if they would peacefully follow a white flag down Whitehall, and for those who had brought sleeping bags and tents, then camp would be set up. Shades of guide camp in the New Forest. Some time later, about 50 people with 4 tents established a half-hearted sit-in, sleep-in, sleep over on the pavement opposite Downing Street. A relatively high police prescence was evident , although no riot police were required. There were a few impromptu, apologetic speeches, followed by everyone forming a circle, hand-in-hand, performing some pagan earth ritual accompanied by a monotonous chanting. After – they requested themselves to hug the person to the left and to the right.It was difficult to see how this was going to rock the pillars of institutionalised democracy and make anyone take the slightest bit of notice.
When young people are being killed in Afghanistan, in a war with no discernible end point, against a perceived enemy that is practically indestructible, we can muster more column inches about a tuition fees protest that will be paid by young people who have a future, forgetting the tragic plight of those who’s future is frozen in time, in a photograph on a mantlepiece.
More Pictures HERE