Ever since the amazing Anna Chen of the Madam Miaow blog posted a comment praising me for my brevity and style, I’ve written nothing but long wittering posts with the only style being that they were fully justified in a nice clear font. I must make more effort to return to form.
If you weren’t on the march for an alternative on Saturday, you may well have been left with the impression from the media coverage that it was a violent rage-fuelled riot. Full of broken glass, paint-bombs, and anarchy. This really wasn’t the case.
From where I was, somewhere in the front third of the march, there was a real carnival atmosphere. People of all ages and ilks were proudly taking part and having a ball for the most part. Kids with little miniature placards, older folk wanting to protect their pensions, and loads of trade unionists with collars, both blue and white and probably other hues as well.
The event was superbly well organised and marshalled by the various trade unions and I must say that the police I spoke to on the day were full of good humour and actually quietly supportive. Their jobs, after all, are being cut as well.
I have said that this wasn’t a rage-fuelled riot but there was a lot of rage. People are really very angry about the demolition job this government is doing over a huge range of public services across the nation. Angry and scared. But the majority of people gave voice to their anger through chants, slogans on t-shirts and placards, and by making the effort to travel from all over the country to take part in the march.
Of course it was that tiny minority who directed their rage – faux or otherwise – into destruction of property who have managed to steal the headlines. This band of around 250 had come ready to carry out pre-planned violence and vandalism on the streets of London. Armed with paint bombs, fireworks, spray-paint, and face-masks, they pronounced to the tailing media (so hungry for good footage that they were rumoured to be paying these idiots to break windows. £25 is apparently the going rate for a shop window from Sky News) that they were “Anarchists on the march to protest against the Government cuts to the state”.
Dear Reader, even writing that now makes me chuckle. Anarchists, by definition, believe the state to be harmful and promote the stateless society. So why a true anarchist would oppose a shrinking in the state is beyond the comprehension of a mere mortal like me. Bakunin would be spinning in his grave or crying into his pint or something. This 250 people made up 0.04% of the estimated total number of marchers but has received at least 90% of the media coverage, which is far more than they deserve.
This march was all about people from all kinds of places and backgrounds coming together peacefully to speak out in one voice with one message. It’s an incredibly rare and unusual sight to see so many people from completely different backgrounds mobilised with one aim, and it will give the government a big headache in the coming weeks.
The papers today seem to be focussing on the occupation by UKUncut of Fortnum and Mason’s. I thought that, unlike the so-called anarchists, they ran a pretty clever operation on the day. The police were spreading their resources all over the place guarding the stores of TopShop, Vodafone and other high street tax-dodgers, when UKUncut were really moving in on posh fruit’n’veg merchants, Fortnum and Mason.
This was an entirely peaceful occupation with no deliberate vandalism and apparently sung songs at the customers and staff. This feels in keeping with the rest of the march even though it distracts the media from coverage of the bulk of the march and rally.
The police are reporting that while most of the march was peaceful, £15,000 of criminal damage was done in F&M’s. I think that was probably just a tourist dropping a single jar of olives.