A VOAG Reader’s March 26th, TUC Protest Report.
It was an impressive show of strength for trades unionism in Britain with 500,000 people heeding the TUC call to demonstrate. Anyone who thought trades unions were dated or irrelevant should think again.
It was the largest demonstration I’ve ever witnessed, but also the quietest. There was very little chanting and the march moved very slowly. The demonstration was so large that those at the front of the march arrived at Hyde Park, the finish point, several hours before others had even started. The TUC was showcasing its “modern trades unionism”. Gone was the sea of red and brass bands- and in its place was a multicoloured, blue, yellow and purple river of people. This was “family-friendly trades unionism”.
I walked quicker than the march. I wanted to see as much of it as possible. Every so often I passed a samba band or individuals in fancy dress. There were small clusters of ‘black blockers’. They were not engaged in direct actions and many appeared to be wearing masks as nothing more than a “protest fashion”.
I saw no confrontations along the march itself. Whilst the demonstration was still progressing, splinter groups were defacing shops in Oxford Street. However most protesters weren’t aware of what was happening in other parts of the City.
I stopped for a break at Trafalgar Square. College students had made a ten foot wooden horse and were parading it around the square. An hour later I watched them set it on fire in the middle of Oxford Circus. Once I reached Hyde Park, I took a walk down Oxford Street. I saw paint splattered windows and the remains of small fires on the road, but the confrontations that had accompanied the limited damage had died down- or had moved on.
I turned towards Trafalgar Square. As I reached the Square, I came across a sound system on a trailer being pulled by a bicycle. It was travelling up the Mall in the opposite direction. A dozen people were following it, dancing as they went. It was playing a mixture of drum and base and dub-step, with an MC chanting through a microphone. I turned around and followed it up the Mall, back towards Oxford Street.
As the sound system made its way to Oxford Street, many others started to follow the sound system. In no time, there were two thousand youth behind us. Dancing, and chanting along with the music. Shoppers and bystanders looked on totally bemused.
This was a different kind of demonstration. Vibrant, energetic, but entirely peaceful. Those that controlled the microphone constantly reminded all those that followed: “This is a peaceful demonstration” and “we are not here to be violent or to vandalise”. Two thousand of us danced up the street chanting along with the music: “Down with the government down” and “One solution revolution”.
We made our way back to Hyde Park, and after a short break turned around, to return once more to Trafalgar Square.
The routes back to the Square were blocked by police –and what followed was a cat and mouse game through side streets to get around the police blocks. We eventually squeezed down an alley and into the Square to be met by cheers and applause from those already there.
We came to a stop beneath Trafalgar’s lions, music still pumping- and there we stayed. As the evening drew-on our numbers thinned to around five hundred. Groups were sitting round small fires, chatting and sharing food and wine. Many people were sitting on the steps in front of the National Gallery, listening to the music. Police were wandering around the square, but keeping a low profile- and were generally friendly.
At 11pm, a hundred riot police appeared on the North side of the square, by the side of the National Gallery. Without warning they charged into the people sitting on the stairs, kicking and hitting them with their shields and batons. As the people fled, those that were hit or were slower, were herded into one corner and detained.
More police appeared at the southern side of the square, behind Nelson’s Column. Without warning they charged at the people who were either dancing or sitting around. As police lines formed, to encircle the entire square and to “kettle” all those inside; a few of us managed to escape to the last train back to Guildford.
Video Report on the March (Not the author)
For another account of Trafalgar Square: