Sunday, March 27, 2011

Demonstrating Peacefully

Ignore what you've read on the news today, yesterday's protest was nothing but a peaceful affair full of a happy unity between all those who felt they needed to speak out against the cuts happening in the UK. It really saddens me to read that over 150 harmless UK Uncut activists - the same people that sat patiently watching our gig in Soho Square yesterday afternoon, applauding and laughing away, the same people who were reported on Twitter by customers at Fortnum and Mason being respectful to the shop as they occupied it, posing neither a threat or a menace while making their point - have been locked up at various police stations around London. Once again, despite knowing that they too may be soon losing their jobs, there are reports of police attacking protesters with little provocation, a friend of mine witnessing a huge bulk of a cop punch a man passing by, letting the situation escalate into a full blown scuffle. On top of this several witnesses have stated that they saw a Sky News reporter pay someone to throw a brick at a bank window for the camera. What began as a wonderful day has again been twisted and warped by media and authority so that the people that want to be heard are dismissed as being associated with vandals.

I had a brilliant day yesterday. Starting with a hilarious incident on the tube, as it sat stuck in a tunnel before Waterloo, there was the usual huffing and puffing of annoyance with TFL. Then suddenly a man from Shropshire TUC shouted 'They're kettling us before we've even begun!' and laughter erupted down the carriage. I walked from the station across the river, stopping to take pictures of the incredible march that seemed to go on forever. Banners both serious and humorous (my favourite was 'I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies'. Brilliant), musicians playing instruments, the less musically capable playing vuvuzelas, and everyone chanting, laughing, meeting new people and having fun. I darted through bits of the march to meet my friends Suze and Marlon at Trafalgar Square and it seemed as though London was filled with people who had no intention of causing trouble, but wanted the world to know they were unhappy with the way we have all been treated.

Joining the rest of the UK Uncut lot at Soho Square I has some apprehensions about occupying a bank to do our gig in. This is mainly because I am a wuss at such things, and being handed a 'bust card' (note: this doesn't mean I can touch boobs when I like unfortunately), I didn't give the reponse of appreciation that others did, but more a sigh of worry at the idea of being arrested. The police were already crowding round, and several helicopters circling overhead. As we headed towards our place of occupation, we discovered that the cops had done their research and closed all the banks and tax dodging shops in anticipation so we darted back into Soho Square. There, to at least 100 people, Chris Coltrane hosted a gig that featured Josie Long, Mark Thomas, several other acts and myself, that caused a response of exhilaration, excitement and giggles. Each using gags to have a go at current issues, it felt like (and without fear of sounding wanky) we were doing comedy with a purpose, something that was cemented by being notified of this on the Guardian website:


'4.17pm: Jamie Kelsey, a contributing editor of the New Internationalist magazine who is at the demonstration, says that the protest is providing a political education to many young people in attendance.

We're at Oxford Circus at the moment and it's a really excellent festival atmosphere. I just spoke to two teenagers aged 17 and 19 who have come from the comedy show in Soho Square, and they said that what they heard there made them think more than anything they have ever learnt at school. It's their first demonstration and when I asked why they came they said they realised that the demonstration is about more than just the UK.

They can understand the connection between the shops and the banks that people are target ting and the global situation that is effecting everyone. They've heard Mark Thomas and a disabled comedian and Johann Hari speak. For these teenagers the protest is absolutely opening their minds to a much wider picture. It's very exciting.'

And that makes it worth it as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully events like that, the majority of the march and all those who enjoyed yesterday will go away and spread the word that the news isn't telling the truth and there is a point to protesting. Yes Vince Cable today said they wouldn't be changing anything, but at least they know that we aren't going to just sit down and take it. Protests will keep happening and hopefully the worse things get the more people will join in stating their upset. I hope that all those who are currently in police stations for merely standing up for what they believe in and opposing large companies stealing money from this country while disability benefits are being cut, are all ok. Thoughts go to you and everyone who suffered unnecessary violence and victimisation at what would have been, sans police, a truly brilliant day. For anyone who wasn't there, all I ask is you read @PennyRed, @JohannHari101 and @chris_coltrane's Twitter feed as well as accounts of people who were there to find out what really happened and not how Murdoch and Cameron have told the press to say it.

Right I shall get off my high Shetland pony now and return to the non-activism I've been exhibiting all day as I stay on the sofa.

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