The bearded man with his pet shrub and the placard saying ‘English Bush Harmless’ was on hand, as he always is, along with various people dressed up as Death, skeletons, George Bush and Tony Blair. I couldn’t tell if they were bearded or not. They had costumes on.
Don’t misunderstand me. I have sported a beard or two in my time and the demonstrators were clearly all well-meaning people, but you don’t fight War with pet pot plants, a vegetable-only diet and unkempt facial hair. The forces lined up against them have all the power, money, clean shaven meat-eating fighting men, killer instinct and black leather they need to get the job done.
Speaking personally, one of the biggest impediments to the success of the Anti-War movement is the way it has been associated with lots of other causes. This is a standard Left Wing dodge and was painfully evident throughout yesterday.
I am firmly against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is immoral and, morality aside, it doesn’t even serve the best interests of my country. Just because I am anti-war does not necessarily mean that I am pro Communist, believe that civil servants should have an inalienable right to indexed pensions or early retirement, think that ALL asylum seekers are saints or support the notion that Kurdistan, Trashkanistan or any other Stan should be given independence as an historical right. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t, but it’s got piss-all to do with the War and I, and presumably many others, don’t want our voice hijacked in support of these other causes. That tatty coalition of disparate, and sometimes contradictory, causes marching on the streets of London yesterday is going nowhere, slowly.
Tony Benn and George Galloway were in attendance, prattling away. A succession of speakers stood at the microphone and congratulated themselves and the marchers listening to them for turning up and scaring the warmongers with people power.
It wasn’t very convincing.
The weather was nice though.
A few things were different to usual. A guy I hadn’t seen before staggered along with a bright yellow industrial boom box and a small scrap of paper on which he had written ‘never forget we are all expendable’. Occasionally he would stop still, wobble a little and hold his piece of paper up for all to see. Sometimes he chose to lie down and hold his message up aloft like Excalibur. He was completely off his face on something, clearly writing from experience and totally expended. He continued to entertain us with his madcap and good-natured antics throughout the course of the day. Thanks mate.
And the police presence was larger than ever, particularly outside the US embassy. Forget about them actually doing anything, there were enough police on hand to foil a terrorist attack simply by absorbing the force of a bomb blast by sheer body mass. There were so many it was surreal. There was an unearthly hush around Grosvenor Square prior to the appearance of the march. It was almost as if passers by and onlookers had subconsciously decided to whisper and avoid any sudden movement, such was the palpable sense of copious force poised on a hairspring.
Actually, the police seemed to realise early on that the crowd from Rent a Riot weren’t coming out to play. Satisfied that the stiffest opposition they were likely to face came from a few thousand bearded lettuce-crunchers shuffling along Park Lane, they even started to look quite relaxed after a while. Unusually for such occasions, we even exchanged words with a couple and swapped some camera tips.
Well, standing around with several thousand colleagues in a pedestrianised Mayfair on a sunny afternoon beats dealing with knife-wielding nutters on the streets of Tottenham or Lambeth any day, doesn't it...