The March for the Alternative demonstration in London at the weekend was – make no mistake, and shame upon the UK national media for failing to recognise this – a triumph of amicable, considerate, humorous, imaginative and inclusive protest. It was angry, for sure, but focused, and there was a palpable sense of unity among those in attendance. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly child-friendly – as well as OAP-friendly – and it seemed that the engagement and enjoyment were etched into the faces of every single person in attendance. This unity, I feel compelled to add, was extended to the police force, and reciprocated by many of them too. I overheard many conversations between protesters and police officers. The police gave directions, said ‘hello’ and smiled at passing protesters, laughed at their signs – and I can also attest to apologies being offered at one stage, after an officer wearing riot gear had unintentionally barged into a young woman. He broke off from his colleagues to make sure she was all right. I am prepared to argue this point all day: the experience of thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of people was an entirely enjoyable one.
I am not alone in sensing a responsibility to make this point. Mary Hamilton, a friend of mine and a fine journalist, made very similar points in her blog post published today.
I will not be so glib as to ignore the confrontations that obviously took place. Having read this morning that over thirty police officers had been injured by the end of the day, I was far more than disappointed: I was furious at the thought that a minority of idiots – whose behaviour can, I think, be described with some accuracy as ‘thick’ – had soiled the UK public’s perception of the day’s events. There was a palpable consciousness among many protesters that, were it not for their duties on the day, the Metropolitan Police might have joined in the march themselves. It seems evident to me that those few hundred idiots who took part in acts of violence are an utter insult to the few hundred thousand people who descended upon London.
I hope that my photographs, provided below, convey some of the atmosphere that I described at the beginning of this post. They will be far more representative of the day than anything you are likely to see in the national newspapers – and I believe you would find that almost any Metropolitan Police officer would concur.