All quiet on the protesting front
London's anti-war demo had lots of people making very little noise.
Saturday’s march in London was striking – not just for its size, but also for the absence of noise.
Walking into Hyde Park, I was confronted by lots of people but very little sound. Only the occasional samba band disturbed the birds. My friend thought that if you removed the placards, you could easily believe the Ramblers’ Association were having a get-together.
‘It is quite quiet. People have been starting chants and people have been quietly ignoring them’, a woman from London said. Two students from Derry, studying in Lincoln, were struck by how quiet their coach journey had been. ‘We thought there’d be a lot of chanting, but everyone was low-key. I think it was because we left so early in the morning – 7.30.’
Another group of students, from Turkey, France and the UK, were much less generous. ‘It’s like they’re about to say, “Would like some tea?”.’ They had all been in Paris recently, on an unrelated march, which they said had been far noisier and more militant.
Perhaps the chanting didn’t take off because there seemed to be little political unity on the demo. ‘We’re here to do what we can, stand up and be counted. That’s why everybody’s here, to try to get the message across’, said an Oxford graduate, holding up a traffic-light banner saying ‘Stop, Look, Listen…Think’.
So, what was the message? Some said that there ‘shouldn’t be a war without UN support’. Others claimed that ‘there’s no reason for it – we’re not being invaded by Hitler charging across Europe’.
A woman with a pushchair said, ‘I’ve got my child to think about, I want her to live in a peaceful world, yeah?’. For some, the war was ‘just about oil’, and not worthy of Britons’ support.
‘I think every person can make a difference, every individual, just by turning up. It starts with us as individuals’, said one protester. I’d like to think that a vibrant anti-war movement could emerge from Saturday’s events. But I didn’t see one unified march; I saw a million individuals in one place. A demonstrator summed it up when she said: ‘It’s lots of people saying “No” for lots of different reasons.’
As I left Hyde Park and made my way to Victoria, the roads had been closed so there was no traffic. And it was quiet.
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