The story of my 26th March march

Thousands of peaceful protesters marched on Saturday and I was one of them. I heard the day described as a protest of two halves: one half peaceful and friendly and the other half violent and aggressive. Guess which half got reported in the media?

 This is the story of my march.

 My day began at the local tube where I met with friends and members of Unison. Some group members donned their Unison tabards, channelling dinner lady chic, and the giant old school trade union banner was hoisted aloft. After gathering at the London Eye (much to the astonishment of the early bird tourists) we moved off to join the main march. It was just after ten am and there were thousands already waiting. We were kept in the road for ages but there was plenty of time to enjoy the carnival atmosphere complete with samba bands and vuvuzelas. The noise was incredible!

 I wouldn’t say we marched: perhaps a gentle stroll is more appropriate with small children toddling along with parents and older children with hand-made signs. Our banner attracted a lot of attention from the press and we joked that we’d be on the front of every newspaper on Sunday. As we passed Downing Street we all booed cheerfully. By this point the police just looked a bit bored and were happy to chat with passing marchers.

 Strangely, there was a huge police presence outside the National Gallery and we joked that perhaps they were worried that we might all rush in, gaze appreciatively at the paintings, make a donation and rush out again. Pouring down Piccadilly, we swapped stories about drinking tea in Fortnum and Mason, not dreaming for a second that it would be occupied and vandalized later that day. What did a nice cup of Orange Pekoe or tin of biccies ever do to anyone?

  A few of us peeled off the main group and nipped into the pub for a swift half and comfort break and, thanks to the knowledge of some local Geography, caught up with the group at Hyde Park. We shared a packet of biscuits and listened as Ed Miliband described us as the big society and cheered as Dave Prentice from Unison thanked us for our support.

 I was home before I knew of any trouble but I’m frustrated that a bunch of dickheads with scarves over their faces spoilt the good feeling of the day. The Observer was the only national newspaper to use a photograph of the march on the front page yesterday. All the other chose to go with pictures of police officers covered in paint or masked protesters attacking Topshop (are you telling me that not a single one of those protesters doesn’t have an item of Topshop clothing in their wardrobes?) Except of course for the News of the World who ran with an earth-shattering headline about Jordan. Cuts? Libya? Japan? Nope, Jordan. And not the country either.

 I marched because I see frontline staff going while middle managers hold onto their good salaries and keep their heads down.

 I marched because I see children, disabled and the elderly suffering because of the cuts.

 I marched because I’ve been made redundant from a job I love.

 I marched because I want to have a voice.

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3 Responses to The story of my 26th March march

  1. Tim says:

    Firstly, I’m glad to hear you were not caught up in any of the more unsavoury stuff which is all the media seem to want to report on. It is terribly sad that your voice is taken away by the actions of a few mindless idiots who decide to turn a civil protest into an uncivil one. I’m surprised they didn’t all focus on the Apple Store on Regent Street in an attempt to grab an iPad 2, or am I just being a bit cynical?

    I’m not sure which is sadder – that a small minority choose mindless violence to cloud over the real agenda of the day, or that the media are so willing to gloss over what actually happened for 90% of the day and choose to sensationalise the other 10%. Very sad. It’s enough to put sensible people with a grievance off ever attending a march like this. At times, if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is like being at a football match in the 80s.

    • citizenr says:

      Good points about the Apple store (cynic!) and eighties footie matches. I feel better for having gone along and booed Downing Street but I never thought anything would change.

      • Tim says:

        Cynical, moi?

        The thing about football matches is that – like Saturday’s march – they got a bad press. I started going to football as a teenager in the mid-80s, maybe six or seven matches a season, and never once witnessed anything more than minor fisticuffs. Indeed, travelling as I did with a bunch of schoolmates, most fans are extremely protective around children of all ages. And yet the Thatcher government and the media would have had you believe that anyone who even passed within 100 yards of a stadium was a mindless thug. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of those around, but like the idiots on Saturday they were very much in the minority, and they gave the rest of us a bad name by making the news agenda all about them.

        I’m not a great believer in civil protests driving immediate and obvious change, but I do believe they are a valid and effective means of raising awareness with the wider public and for airing grievances which may – and I stress “may” – help to influence public policy in some small way down the line. That is, if all the attention isn’t grabbed by someone kicking in ATMs or stealing the teapots from Fortnum & Mason …

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