The London protest was really quite a remarkable experience. I hadn’t realised that so much of the city had simply been shut down and cleared for the march. To see so many vast, empty streets, utterly deserted, in a city which is normally so chaotic and congested, was just surreal.
I was impressed by how well organised it was. We’ll never know how many people too part (somewhere between 750,000 and 1.5 million) but more or less everyone knew where to go, and everyone followed the correct routes. The police, love 'em or hate 'em, also seemed to fulfill their role very well. I saw them dealing with one or two ‘situations’ very tactfully and with great good common sense. Mind you, I also think many of them were secretly panicking inside, realising that even though every available officer had been deployed, they were still VASTLY out-numbered by a very purposeful, good-natured and yet determined crowd.
I felt sorry sorry for any poor sods who, many months ago, had settled on Feb 15th for their wedding, or a shopping trip to London, or a brief holiday weekend in the city…
I found more to be impressed by in Hyde Park. Everyone could hear, everyone could see, and the organisers kept it moving. Given that it was such an important event, and that we were ‘making history’ (as just about everyone kept telling us) it was a shame that so many of the speakers couldn’t be bothered to think of anything much to say. I like Mo Mowlam and respect her integrity, but her ‘speech’ was an absolute shambles.
It was just an amazing experience, and being a part of it was quite something. Such a MASSIVE turnout, and no problems to speak of.
It’s true that a few of the many factions involved tried to ‘hijack’ the event a little, but that’s usually the case with something like this, and I don’t think they were fooling anyone but themselves. Whatever the merits of the Palestinian cause, that’s not what got everyone out on the streets of London today.
Before I saw the march and the numbers involved, I took the rather resigned view that it wouldn’t have much effect - that Blush and Bair would do whatever they decide to do, march or no march. Now I’m not quite so sure. The sheer darned scale of the thing will be very hard to ignore, EVEN for Blair. It was the biggest demonstration ever seen in the country. Blair might try to be an ostrich about it, but - and here’s the point - his cabinet won’t and his back-bench MPs won’t.