This was a demonstration of outrage at the way that the governments of the USA and UK have been behaving, as well as a time to emphasize the common bond between peace-loving people all around the world. The touchstone was the fact that our societies and countries have fought for peace and freedom over the past hundred years, and now the governments have stolen elections and abused power to prosecute illegal wars of occupation and oppression in the obvious quest of money from oil in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There were people from all age and ethnic groups gathering together to show the people in power that they have seen through their artifice, and will no longer accept the lies and deceits that the governments have been giving us. The problem is clearly seen as the governments that have hijacked the process, stolen the elections and lied their way into power, and not the people of either the USA or the UK.
However, it is clearly stated that the people need to exert themselves greatly, with consistency and with vigor, to assert their right to organize and vote, and to convince their peers to do the same, so that we can regain control of the governments. We must put aside internal differences, and refrain from seeing our peers in peace as any part of the problem, for we have a larger struggle on our hands, and we will need all our strength in order to prevail against the liars who have hijacked our governments, for they have the incumbency, and therein lies much power, which will be very difficult indeed for us to dislodge.
I went to the demonstration with four associates, and we met at Waterloo Station, where we joined the procession at about 1545 hr. The procession was loud and colorful, with many signs from organized groups, interspersed with many home-made signs, many with witty and pithy comments about Bush, the War, and the occupation of Iraq. We marched between cordons of uniformed police, equipped in their traditional "Bobby" helmets, and wearing Fluorescent Yellow safety coats that are also foul weather gear. There was no real interaction between the two groups, no catcalls at the police, no bull-horned warnings or announcements at the demonstrators.
The noise reached its peak as we passed the intersection of Whitehall and Downing Streets, where we were only about 60 feet from Tony Blair's official residence. About 20 minutes later, we reached Trafalgar Square, where there had been erected a golden statue of George Bush to add to the sorry assemblage of generals who were in charge of executing the oppression tactics of the British Empire. The speeches were already underway as we arrived, but the whole of the march had not even gotten as far as Waterloo Station. Trafalgar was full and overflowing, there were about 150 thousand people already in attendance.
Many great speeches were given, all of which expressed solidarity with the people of the USA, but disgust with the bunch of scoundrels who have hijacked the government and used it for illegal ends. Disgust was also the word for the Queen of England, and the Prime Minister Blair, who have violated the trust placed in them by the people of the UK, in partnering with this crook, and then by inviting him into their homes for a State Visit. Americans were represented in the podium and in the crowd, and were given respect as partners in the struggle for peace.
Everyone was there, Jews and Muslims, workers and professionals, politicians and peace activists were all represented, and all joined together as partners. It's the scoundrels we are against, not each other. It's peace we want, and it can only be obtained by peaceful means used to win the struggle against intolerance, injustice and violence.
Of course, there were Socialist Workers and Communists, as there always are at demonstrations against the government. But they were not represented on the podium, and they were not part of the organization of the demonstration. This was clearly a demonstration that the mainstream of England wants a democratic change to a free nation, not an overthrow of the government by anti-democratic forces of communism or socialism.
It was clear that there were still thousands of people streaming into the Square, and the announcement from the podium was that the police had allowed that there were seventy thousand people in the demonstration. This brought a cheer and a laugh, because it was such a plain lie. There were still people coming towards the Square from Waterloo, and they were thirty wide and backed up for a mile, trying to get into Trafalgar! The announcer continued that the real number was more like 250,000 demonstrators, and we all gave a cheer for our compatriots in the cause of peace.
Additionally, there was a good community feeling, with people helping each other towards appreciation of the greater good of the peace-loving community. There was no violence at the parade, and no nastiness in what was said, either from the podium, nor from the rank and file of the marchers. This was a positive occasion, and it ended with the pulling down of the golden idol to the craven man who did not want to have us near him, george W. Bush. Truly an event for the edification and entertainment of the whole family!
After the speeches at the podium were given, and "Joe Hill" was sung, as the first of the post-demonstration songs, my group repaired away to a pub up North of Trafalgar, in fact, it was even North of Leicester Square, so it was about a fifteen minute walk away. After a round of beers and ales, and spirited talk as well for a little under an hour, we broke up, and I said goodbye to three good and friendly people.
Feeling hungry, I went alone to Wong Kei at 41 - 43 Wardour Street, for one of their cheap, though not cheerful, tasty and quick Cantonese meals. The name is funny, because it's pronounced "wonkey" which is the British word for "gone wrong". Some people feel that they get their food thrown at them, and that they're ordered out when they're finished with their meal, but I have not experienced such displeasures in the half-dozen times I've eaten there over the past four years. It was only a ten minute walk from the pub, and my friend was walking the same way as he went to another gathering up in Soho, so the time and distance were inconsequential.
I ordered Fish and Bean Cake on steamed rice for Â¬Â£5.50, It came in ten minutes, and I ate it in another twenty, as it was plentiful, and I enjoyed tasting it, so I didn't rush. No MSG here, just fresh food served in good portions, without fanfare. Single male diners are pretty much restricted to the ground-floor "bull pen", where we share tables, cafeteria style.
It's all pretty comfortable at Wong Kei, and people are even known to share conversations as they eat, even though we have nothing in common other than the eating place. I gather that there are legions of regulars, as many order as they are seated, without referring to the menu at all. There are also dining areas up and down, where groups and families dine with a little more space between tables, and a little less bustle around them. It shows that peace works for them. Would they be open if London had been invaded, instead of Baghdad? I think not!
Inside Wong Kei, it was as though there was nothing different in the world. It's a place apart from it's surroundings, and seems timeless and apart from the concerns of the world. There were a few other demonstrators eating in the place, I could tell by their badges and things. But to the staff at Wong Kei, it was just another day. Funny how we depend on a place like that, and funny how London provides it as though it was a given thing.
After dinner, I walked back down to Trafalgar Square, arriving there at about 2050 hr. I was just in time to see that there was a tense situation shaping up. There were about four thousand people still in the Square, and they were on the West side, near Nelson's Column, and the entrance to Whitehall Street.
Police were moving to form a human wall to block the way from Trafalgar into Whitehall Street, and the crowd was shouting and angry. But restraint prevailed, and the standoff ended in a victory for peace, with the demonstrators pulling back into the Square and resisting the temptation to get into a tussle with the police. Instead, they started a bonfire and burned their signs, and I suspect that pieces of the statue of George Bush ended their existence in that pyre.
On the East side of the Square, where police had formed a contingent of about a hundred men, there was a man who got into a fracas with them, and got himself arrested. He was led off in handcuffs, but none too quickly did they remove him, and that nearly caused more hassles and more arrests.
Additionally, there was a passing office worker who was drunk and disheveled, young and white, and who tried to pick a fight with a white demonstrator. But a young dreadlocked African man stepped between the parties, and quickly convinced the demonstrator to get away from the conflict, so the aggressive office boy was sent away with curses on his lips, and all the fault for violence on his head.
I left Trafalgar as many of the police did as well, and peace seemed to settle over the place. I walked over the Thames from Charing Cross Station on the new Jubilee Bridge, which is a welcome replacement for the old footpath that hung off the East side of the rail bridge there. Now we walk a dozen feet away from the trains which, though they are all going slow, were still rather intimidating, and loud, when we used to be only separated by a chainlink fence.
On the Southbank side of the Thames, by the newly-installed power generating windmill, there is an installation of what I presume is an artwork. It's lights and water-sprayers, rigged up in the mulberry trees, which still have leaves on the 20th of November! The lights come on periodically, and the water sprays periodically, and then it happens a few trees away, and then it comes back to the first set of trees. Very clever? No, but at the same time, it has a serenity about it, that's a sign of peace working for that artist/installer. I hope some artist got paid a great deal of money for that, because whoever is fool enough to spend greatly for watering trees in England deserves to be separated from their money!
Seeing these lights and sprinklers capped off the evening in a telling way, in London in 2003, where anything is possible, and things that don't go together at all, exist side by side. And none of it would have worked, without the peace that we have all come to expect in a civilized society.
Â©2003, David C.P. Leland, All rights reserved. The right of David C.P. Leland to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
David C. P. Leland