London protest report
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Sep 29 07:37:26 MDT 2002
A big day out in Leftistan
Old and new radicals joined forces to make the Stop the War coalition
feel more like the start of something, says Euan Ferguson
Sunday September 29, 2002
It was nice to see things back to normal. There were reports, after last
Sunday's countryside march, that the police, for the first time in
history, had agreed with the organisers about the number of marchers.
Yesterday afternoon, as London limped to a halt because of the massive
anti-war/pro-Palestine peace march, we were back in happy and familiar
territory: 'He only fell down the three steps.' 'What bruise?'
Scotland Yard said at 2pm that perhaps 40,000 demonstrators had turned
up. I was halfway along Piccadilly at the time, at the head of the
march, phoning a friend at the back, in a crush at the Embankment, and
she hadn't even started moving. The Stop the War coalition last night
claimed the total was more than 350,000; the police reluctantly moved up
from 'four men with beards and a small dog' to 150,000, and the truth
was, if anything, even higher than either, given the number of Londoners
slipping in and out of the stream before sliding off to shops and pubs.
It was a big, big, important march, and quite angry, and quite mixed.
'It doesn't say anything obscene, does it?' asked the mounted copper, in
fairly friendly fashion at 1pm, as Torron Urquhart unfurled a banner in
Arabic, held it up before the horse and asked his friend to take a
picture. It said 'Saudi Arabia against war' - at least, it did according
to Torron; it could quite easily have been impugning the rider-horse
relationship. The march began in this fashion, languages and cultures
fusing all over the place, yet together in their aim, for there was an
undeniable unity of purpose. Everyone to whom I spoke conjoined both
aims: to stop the war and to act to help Palestine: angry Muslims in PLO
gear, tidy Hampstead ladies with their granddaughters in prams, a welter
of students with the pallor and spectacles you get from months of small
print in low light. 'You can't separate them out,' said Sharon Finmark,
who is Jewish. 'Unless the Middle East conflict is solved, going into
Iraq is just going to make the whole area explode,' and this same
message came across time and again, endlessly. It's not just about Iraq.
It's the tinderbox, stupid.
It was back to the old days, too, in terms of types. All the oldies and
goodies were there. The Socialist Workers' Party, leafleting outside
Temple Tube station by 11 am. ('In this edition: Noam Chomsky in
Socialist Worker !'). CND, and ex-Services CND. The Scottish Socialist
Party. 'Scarborough Against War and Globalisation', which has a lovely
ring of optimism to it, recalling the famous Irish provincial leader
column in 1939: 'Let Herr Hitler be warned, the eyes of the Skibereen
Eagle are upon him.' Many, many Muslim groups, and most containing women
and children, although some uneasy thoughts pass through your mind when
you see a line of pretty six-year-old black-clad Muslim toddlers walking
ahead of the megaphone chanting 'George Bush, we know you/Daddy was a
killer too,' and singing about Sharon and Hitler
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