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M20 London - a protestor's-eye view

Simon | 21.03.2004 20:59 | Anti-militarism | London

[LONDON, 20th March 2004] One year after the 'shock and awe' invasion of Iraq, I'm more convinced than ever that it was the wrong thing to do. So, armed with camera, mobile phone, A-Z and home-made placard, I joined the march and rally in London. Here are some photos and my account of the day.

Get yer placards... (hope they recycle them)
Get yer placards... (hope they recycle them)

We've found the WMD Mr Blair - you and Bush had them!
We've found the WMD Mr Blair - you and Bush had them!

Free Mozam Begg
Free Mozam Begg

Breeding terrorists
Breeding terrorists

Tony's case for war
Tony's case for war

Trust Bliar my ?rse!
Trust Bliar my ?rse!

Couldn't think of a slogan (but it got on the TV!)
Couldn't think of a slogan (but it got on the TV!)

Bliar's pork pies
Bliar's pork pies

The UK arms trade is terrifying
The UK arms trade is terrifying

USA on tour
USA on tour

If he knew...
If he knew...

Old-style telephone box joins anti-war demo
Old-style telephone box joins anti-war demo

The reign in Spain was toppled by the sane
The reign in Spain was toppled by the sane

Guilty of treason / Deaf to all reason
Guilty of treason / Deaf to all reason

Bombing for peace is like shagging for virginity
Bombing for peace is like shagging for virginity

More from Artists Against the War
More from Artists Against the War

All timings are approximate.

Coach carrying about 30 assorted anti-war types leaves Regent Circus college in Swindon, heading for London

Coach arrives in Park Lane. We get off and try to assemble the big yellow Swindon Stop the War Coalition banner, but decide it's too windy to carry such a large banner (without any holes in it) around. This is unfortunate because the banner normally forms a nice visible rallying and meeting point when we lose each other at these kind of events. The best alternative seems to be the Swindon & District Green Party's flag.

Assemble in Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. Mill around for a while checking out various stalls and things. No thanks, I've already got a copy of Socialist Worker. And the Socialist. And the Morning Star. There are any number of organisations and groups giving out mass-produced placards and collecting money and members, including the Green party, Muslim Association of Britain, SWP, Socialist Party, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Network for Economic & Political Democracy, and Respect Unity coalition.

Spot a group of 'nuclear weapons inspectors' from Youth & Student CND with an inflatable missile which must be 3 or 4 metres long. They're carring cardboard cut-out pointy fingers which say 'Mr Blair, we've found the WMD! You and Bush had them all along!'. One of them asks if I'd be interested in joining a march to AWE Aldermarston during the Easter Bank holiday. I can't give up the whole weekend but I'd like to join the last day at Aldermarston itself. I signed up for information on the web site ages ago but I haven't heard a peep from them. I write a contact e-mail address on one of her leaflet-forms and she promises to send me some practical information. If she's reading this, don't forget please!

A STWC steward comes past with a megaphone asking us to join the march. This entails joining a queue along a road in Hyde Park (North Carriage Drive I think) and waiting. Oops, I've lost the rest of the Swindon group already. Not sure whether they're still milling around Speaker's Corner or they've already joined the queue (probably both, in various groups). Never mind, I've got an A-Z and several mobile numbers including the coach driver, and I know where & when we're meeting to get the coach back home. In the mean time I've got a demo to attend and photos to take and share with the IMC community.

I take up position in the queue near the inflatable missile and a group calling themselves 'Wall of Sound'. There don't seem to be many of them, but they're doing a good job of it with their drums, improvised rattles, whistles and chanting. I have a bit of a dance to their wall of sound whilst taking photos of various creative people and things as they come past to join the queue behind me. What looks like a large samba band joins the queue some distance ahead of me, but all I can hear of them from here is one or two bass drums.

Just after 13:00
It seems like the march has started, albeit quite slowly. People moving at different rates depending various factors such as what they are carrying / pushing / pulling / performing. Wall of Sound fall some way behind me and I can't hear them much, but I seem to be going at about the same pace as the inflatable missile, give or take lots of diversions to find good spots to take photos.

I overhear an observation that the police are looking bored. There isn't much for them to do, after all this is a bog-standard Stop the War Coalition plod from A to B, and no-one looks like they're going to do anything more threatening than spread subversive ideas.

Having been pretty sparse for a while, the march seems to get very dense as we approach a junction (the bottom of Haymarket I think). Looks like people at the junction have stopped and everyone's piling up behind them. I work my way forward through the crowd and I start to hear that big samba band I spotted earlier. Past some people in combat-style clothes with radiation symbols painted on their faces, carrying individual missiles and dancing to the beats (sorry, couldn't get a decent photo in the crowd). The samba band seem to be holding an impromptu party at the junction, which is holding everyone up, but no-one seems to mind, and lots of people are having a boogie.

Chris Eubank's lorry cab is parket at the junction as well, and as the sambatistas and most of the crowd start moving again, someone with a megaphone shouts something about Chris Eubank and his lorry. I don't catch the drift of it as I'm on the other side of the road and I'm more intersted in catching up with the sambatistas.

Arrive in trafalgar square, and again the samba band have stopped moving to perform a bit of a finale. Some people dance and others file round them to see who's making speeches from Nelson's Column. Someone hands me a leaflet identifying them as Rhythyms of Resistance, an 'activist samba band' (sorry RoR, I incorrectly labelled you as the Sheffield Samba Band at the demo last September). The leaflet also contains some background info and web links about Iraq, Palestine, and what we can do in the UK. The RoR-ers stop playing and people drift in the direction of the fountains.

Trafalgar Square is pretty packed, at least in the section in front of the public address compound around Nelson's Column, and the section higher up between the fountains and the National Gallery. The steps up to the entrance to the National Gallery seem to be out of bounds to protesters - shame because that would give the best view of the Square. Some people are chalking their messages to the world on the ground, but it's a bit wet to do that. Think I spot the Swindon Green Party flag right across the Square, but don't seem to be able to find it again.

There's a minute's silence for the victims of the railway bombs in Madrid last week, and hundreds of black baloons are released. I think the ballons are a bit irresponsible because they'll all come back to earth eventually where various birds and animals might choke on them - bad news. One of the people on the stage tells us that there are a hundred thousand of us on the march.

Louise Christian (lawyer representing one of the Britons recently released from Guantanamo Bay) gives a passionate speech about the day she first got to meet this guy who she's been representing for the past couple of years. Even once he's in Paddington Green police station, they won't let her see him until he's been fingerprinted and administrated. She is clearly outraged about the whole thing, and I get the impression that she's about to burst into tears (she doesn't).

Rhythms of Resistance have started playing again, behind the PA compound and to the side, out of earshot of people listening to the speeches. Some brightly-coloured young ladies with sparkly pom-poms and t-shirts saying 'Bristol Radical Cheerleaders' are dancing in the road alongside Tafalgar Square, where the march came in. The police want to reclaim the road for the traffic and they've formed a line, but the cheerleaders are fairly determined to keep it for dancing as long as possible. The cheerleaders gradually retreat on to the pavement, still dancing, and the police lose interest. The samba party continues and I have a bit of a boogie, before making my way to the meeting point.

Some of the Swindon group are at the meeting point there already, but the coach isn't yet. One of them has a portable radio and tells me that a couple of Greenpeace people had climbed the outside of Big Ben for a banner drop. Seeing as the route didn't go past Big Ben or Parliament, I hadn't seen them, but respect to them!

I sit down review my photos while waiting for the coach. A man comes past and says to me 'that's b?ll?cks that is', indicating my placard which says 'Tony Blair you're fired'. We talk for a bit about sacking prime ministers or governments or whatever, and how just replacing them with another prime minister or government from the same mould would not achieve anything, and when he leaves, we are in agreement that the current system needs to be replaced with something so unique and revolutionary that we haven't worked out what it is yet.

The coach and all who should be on it are re-united, and we set off for Swindon. I have been given a fairly large wad of leaflets over the course of the day, so I take the opportunity to see what I've picked up (listed below). Note that at the time of publishing, I haven't had a chance to check half the web sites mentioned.

Arrive back in Swindon and chill out with some wine and some friends, showing them the photos I've taken during the day. The evening includes a fair bit of discussion of the Iraq war and related issues. Most of them are unhappy with our government and its relationship with dubious interest groups (certainly no-one tries to say it was right to make war with Iraq), but none of them really feel strongly enough about it to have joined the demo, or they've got more important things to do, or they don't think it would make any difference. For everyone who, like me, made the journey to London (or one of the other demos around the world), there are bound to be a number of stay-at-homes who agree with us.

================= Leaflets ====================================================

Rhythyms of Resistance (as described above). No web address of their own on the leaflet, but they really add a carnival atmosphere to proceedings - hope to see / hear you RoR-ers again soon!

Aldermarston march, bank holiday weekend, leaving Trafalgar Square 11am 9th April and marching to AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) Aldermarston, via Southall Park, Slough and Reading.

A flyer humbly requesting that I worship God Almighty and follow the last Messenger - Muhammad (peace be upon him) for my own salvation.

Stop Esso flyer - Exxon Mobil gave lots of cash to the Bush 2000 election campaign. I guess that's got something to do with his position on the Kyoto protocol, fuel efficiency and taxes, renewable energy, and anything else which affects the oil industry.

Green Party leaflet tarring both the US government and fundamentalist terrorists with the same 'religious ultra-right' brush, putting forward its own anti-war position, and encouraging people to join the Aldermarston 2004 march.

National Economic Security and Reformation Act. Apparently all credit card and mortgage debts will be waived, the IRS (Inland Revenue Service in USA?) will be abolished, and the current administration will all resign. The web site they quote doesn't exist, so I guess this is a wind-up.

A message to the world about the Madrid bombs, from the Anarchist Federation

Flyer advertising a web site about Guantanamo bay

Leaflet from the Communist Party of Great Britain. It says that just because Al-Qaeda is our enemy's enemy, it doesn't make them our friend. It also takes a pop at the STWC and Respect, and then calls for recallable representatives, scrapping the monarchy, MI5 and the Official Secrets Act, and indirectly for a united federal Ireland.

Small flyer from the Communist Party calling for indictment of the Cabinet for war crimes, no more imperialist wars, and justice for the Palistinian people.

Leaflet from the Socialist Party, with a commentary on the Madrid bombs, Aznar and Blair's prime-minister-ships, and Iraq.

A sheet of commentary from the London Conrresponding Committe (no web address) on the Madrid bombs and Iraq, with a claim that the Ba'athists are in league with Al-Qaeda and that they are the reverse mirror image of the US-sponsored war on terror.

Two leaflets from the Revolution Socialist Youth Organisation, calling for victory to the resistance (in Iraq), strikes against the occupation, a general strike on 2nd & 3rd April, and opposition to the BNP.

Flyer for the Campaign against Climate Change's Kyoto march, on Saturday 15th May. March at 7am from the Exxon Mobil HQ in Leatherhead to the US Embassy (20 miles). Or start from the Rally at the Imperial War Museum at 3:30pm, with a 'Dinosaur Party' outside the embassy at 5:30pm.

Flyer from Palestine Solidarity Campaign - The Wall Must Fall. Saturday 15th May 1:30pm in Trafalgar Square for 'speakers / culture / action'. And I suppose you could join the Dinosaur Party afterwards.

Glossy leaflet from the Respect Unity coalition asking for our votes on 10th June in the European Parliament and Greater London Assembly elections.

Leaflet from the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Turkey / Northern Kurdistan

Leaflet from Justice Not Vengance with an analysis of opinion polls of Iraqi people since the war

Grass Roots Opposition to War. A non-heirachical network, committed to nonviolence, intending to be co-operative with other anti-war groups and networks. They've set up a web site to help local anti-war groups to communicate and share experiences and ideas.

================= Conclusion? =================================================

So what did I achieve by joining this officially-sanctioned walk from A to B?

Blair patently ignored the F15 protests when 2 million took to the London streets against war, so I doubt that this much smaller demo will have him quaking in his boots, renouncing capitalism, pulling troops out of Iraq / Afghanistan, or resigning. On the other hand, I brought some of my experiences and photos back to share with you good people in case you couldn't make it yourselves.

And hopefully footage of all these UK people who are so angry with the behaviour of their government will be broadcast around the world, especially in those areas where the people have been exploited and oppressed for generations in the interests of western imperialism and greed. So when the oppressed people are approached by fundamentalist terror recruiters who want to bomb and kill the infidel westerners, they'll realise that most of these westerners are people just like them, oppressed by the same system (although not as badly), and that we are not their enemies at all. And they'll tell the fundamentalists where to stick their twisted rhetoric just like the people of the UK and USA need to tell our own fundamentalists where to stick their 'war on terror'.

Peace, love, truth and justice, for everyone.

PS Massive respect to those people who blocked the gates of Menwith Hill!

- Homepage:


Hide the following 5 comments

great report from the day !!

21.03.2004 21:50

Hi Simon

Brill report...!
For those that participated in Saturdays Anti-war demo, i guess we all take back our own experiences, perceptions of the day. What i think is really important though, is that we share those thoughts with our each other, our friends, families, collegues etc. Debate and shareing info is so crucial when others with power and access to the corporate forms of news only provide government propaganda, "expert" opionions and dumbed-down filtered rubbish.

Your thoughs, our thoughs, ideas and experiences are the ones that will hopefully shape and inform our views and allow us to make up our own minds :-)

Great idea about cataloging the list of flyers you picked up, it shows the range of diversity and politik that you find on a demo and passes that info on to others! Websites are useful for peeps to go and have a look for themselves!


More URLs and flyers...

21.03.2004 22:25

RoR Samba website is at:

Chalk4Peace - who were doing great chalkings in trafalgar square:

Dublin Mayday 04 - against the Europe of capital
Four days of direct action, exhibitions, events, protests and parties, including a critical mass, may 1st actions against the EU Summit banquet, a no borders day of action in solidarity with migrants of the eu and beyond, and a reclaim the streets party!
(and yet to go live

ps yeah, great report there and good pics :-)



22.03.2004 00:19

Great report and photos, just a quick clarification about the samba band you mentioned.

"Someone hands me a leaflet identifying them as Rhythyms of Resistance, an 'activist samba band' (sorry RoR, I incorrectly labelled you as the Sheffield Samba Band at the demo last September)."

On both occasionas the band was a mix of Sheffield Samba Band and Rhythms of Resistance sambistas playing together on the march (not forgetting people from Oxford and elsewhere). In September I think Sheffield had their big bright banner and on Saturday RoR had their leaflets.

Find out more at:


typo / sambatistas / more

25.03.2004 18:54

Typo - the address for the survey on the BBC web site is wrong. should read - sorry!

I forgot to mention the Bush / Blair puppet show - a puppet of Blair with someone in a Bush mask pulling the strings, and someone on stilts with a $ hat pulling Bush's strings. I didn't get a decent photo of them, but there's one here:

There's also a photo of the Bristol Radical Cheerleaders here:

Sorry I mis-identified you sambatistas again. I guess it's wrong to try to put people in boxes and stick labels on them because it leads to confusion like this. Maybe I'll get it right next time. Every demo should have a samba band though - it's something which seemed to be lacking at the ones we held in Swindon last March.

BTW, I haven't heard from the youth & student CND people about Aldermarston yet, so I've sent them an e-mail.


effect of the rain on numbers

28.03.2004 20:12

Just for the record,I undertsnad that Swindon StWC had 48 pre-paid tickets for the coach, and aroung 25 people actualy travelled.

Can only assume that those who paid but didn't go were influenced by the very bad weather in Swindon - although apparently it was better in London.

Experience is that there is a correlation that every full coach from Swindon is equivalent to 150000 claimed by the organisers.


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