Archive for February, 2011

Hannibal Lecturer

London, Saturday 29 January

I’d had something of a winter break from protesting, with a combination of work, snow and a dodgy ankle keeping me off the streets for seven weeks. On Saturday, I was back in the game, as part of a group of 10,000 protesters in London.

Arriving at ULU quite early, I watched the crowd slowly assemble. A man offered recipies for eating politicians as part of a balanced diet (Clegg on toast, boiled Clegg and soldiers), while two topless girls (and one topless guy) cast themselves as “sluts against cuts”, calling for an orgy on the day of the royal wedding. They wore black balaclavas – taking inspiration from Feeder’s video for ‘Renegades’? (NSFW!)

Just after noon, we got moving. Keeping an eye out for FITs, I weaved to the front of the march, where an energetic woman with a megaphone led the chanting. We made a brief pause at the Top Shop on Strand for a tax protest, and another opposite Downing Street, featuring dancing and several flares.

Cuts to education and the public sector were not the only things on our agenda today. After a few speeches and a gathering outside Millbank, we started the long trek towards the Egyptian embassy. This was my favourite part of the march. The roads hadn’t been closed, so there was a lot of motionless traffic to march past. Every few seconds, a driver would honk his horn support, and be greeted by cheers from the swarm of marchers. They didn’t seem too resentful at the delay to their journey.

At length, we arrived at the embassy, where hundreds of passionate Egyptians had been gathered since noon. There was a great joint show of solidarity, with chanting in English as well as Arabic. One Egyptian taught me one of the Arabic chants, but I’m afraid I’ve completely forgotten it. Foreign languages is not my strong point.

Amid the dancing masses and confusion, there was a cute scene as three Egyptian girls (aged between 4 and 10) chanted anti-Murabak slogans whilst sat on top of a Mercedes:

Young Egyptian protesters on top of a merc

I mentioned confusion: there were widespread rumours that, inexplicably, the police were preparing to kettle us. Maybe they think that that’s what happens at marches, regardless of whether there is any violence. In any case, the call went out for us to head to Oxford Street. We raced the policemen there.

Some protesters had evidently got there ahead of me, because a troop of glowsticks barricaded the door of Top Shop. Unable to join those inside, I whipped out my leaflets and spoke to a succession of confused passers-by, enlightening them on the misdeeds of Mr. Green. There were two girls who looked about sixth-form age, so I did some quick maths and them that the tax dodge could have provided two years’ worth of EMA for 100,000 students – they took leaflets and vowed never to shop at Top Shop again.

By this time, the march had split into at least three separate swarms. With none of them in the vicinity, aching feet and a need to retrieve my suitcase before heading back to Oxford, I decided to call it a day. Kudos to the people who had the stamina for a longer protest.

It was a great day, and I’m really glad that we managed to make it a non-violent one. Because of this, It didn’t make the front page (correct me if I’m wrong), but with a revolution going on in Egypt, it’s probably more like a page 5 event. Except for ‘sluts against cuts’, of course – coming to page 3 of a low-brow rag soon?


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