They chanted for freedom, I didn’t know why,
Whirling around me their placards raised high.
I only stepped out for a walk in the sun,
When half-baked rebellion squashed all my fun.
“Death to the fat cats!” rang out their decree.
“Good golly!” I stammered… they may well mean me.
The scampering behind me grew louder and the low murmured chanting became clear. I quickened my pace, but the steps grew closer and disembodied slogans boomed out to deliver messages of doom to the rich, powerful and oppressive. There was no escaping it, they were coming for me. As I slipped into top gear, old legs pumping as fast as they would go, the throng of noise and revolution enveloped me and I stared into the face of Guy Fawkes… hundreds of them.
Dear Partisans, I have never oppressed anybody in my entire life. Never crushed a man beneath my jackboot, denied a hungry man food… or even mistreated so much as a humble insect. I have, however, made a nice living for myself and my family, and would like to think I’ve helped a good many people along the way. That said, when you hear an army fast approaching, spewing omens and threats to ‘capitalist sadists’ I challenge you not to think that your time is up.
Happily, this drilled unit of be-masked marauders meant me no harm and they flowed past relatively peacefully. As they did it occurred to me that this was the perfect opportunity to advance my quest for new political discovery and enlightenment. Here I was out for a quick stroll along the Strand and a grass roots political movement was marching right by and on to Parliament a mere ten minute walk away.
I may not have had a mask, I may have been a tad more jauntily dressed, but the crowd seemed a fairly mixed bunch and I could easily blend in and observe democracy in action. I hadn’t been to a street demonstration since my university days and I have to confess that by this point my blood was pumping at the thought of discovering exactly what was going on. Fair enough that the last ‘demo’ I took part in was to save an arts theatre in Massachusetts… but how different could it be?
There seemed to be a wide range of ages, races, colours and creeds. I fell in with some older Partisans bringing up the rear, only half of them wore masks and they bore banners calling for African debt relief, lower tuition fees and transparency from the UK Security Services. I wasn’t entirely sure what any of these things had to do with each other, but I was a guest and didn’t want to make any waves.
As we came up to Parliament Square the air seemed to change, everything felt a bit prickly and some of the chanting was not for the faint hearted. I stepped back from the main group and began counting the different manifestos and demands emblazoned on banners, signs and blankets. After I rounded forty I was pretty sure that the only thing a lot of these folks had in common were the Guy Fawkes masks they were wearing.
There were anarchists, students, peace activists, anti-capitalists and a myriad of others all struggling to make their voices heard in the small square. As a cacophony of different demands echoed out over the afternoon air I took my leave, confused as to the point of it all.
By the time I got back to my apartment on the South Bank the demonstration was being shown live on the local news. A breakaway group of protesters had rushed into the road and were worrying the traffic edging its way to Westminster Bridge. As they sat in front of busses, banged on windows, threw firecrackers and brought the road to a standstill, a lone reporter stepped into the fray to conduct interviews.
I say interviews, the journalist filmed around 30 masked people arguing over what cause they had stopped the No. 12 bus for. The whole thing had a definite air of the Judean People’s Front about it… and I was begging the TV for somebody to ask how these protestors were planning on getting home from central London later. The look of confusion in their eyes as they struggled not to say, “Errrrr… by bus,” would have amused me greatly.
Alas, amused I was not. l know this was pure opportunism on my part, but is grass roots not even a thing anymore? Is causing trouble more important than speaking up for a cause? Or is there just a severe lack of organisation… or worse, so much apathy that compromise – which always works better on paper – is a must these days?
No self-respecting bee would stand for such disorganisation… and neither will I. Next I will seek out the Liberals, the Greens and the moderates. If that fails I will hunt down the Communists, the Libertarians and the Unionists. I will sample every party and hear every viewpoint. I will suck the marrow out of the issues and jump in feet first to whatever strikes a chord. If nothing strikes a chord I will seek out Independents. And if none of them stack up… I may very well start my own movement.
I met them on the Strand (‘ave they got fireworks?)
A weird and rabble band:
No clear leader, but I marched behind,
Straight down Whitehall to see what I would find.
It soon got out of hand (they’re throwing fireworks),
Their new gunpowder plan.
Truth is more than ‘fun’ and noise,
More than muddled girls and boys,
We should aim for something grand!