On Saturday 29 May, up to a million people from all over the UK (the march took 2 hours to pass a given point) marched from Parliament Square, up Whitehall, through Trafalgar Square, up the Charing Cross Road, along Oxford Street and out through West London to Shepherd’s Bush, where (after a few wrong turns in Acton) we peacefully occupied the Westfield Shopping Centre. Some of the more foolhardy (and footsore) of us made it back to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park around 8pm. This is my photographic record of the day.
The policing of protests in the UK has two purposes: to intimidate and discredit protesters, and in doing so dissuade other would-be protesters from joining them. Not wishing to contribute to either, I will not report on the typically disgraceful behaviour of the Metropolitan Police Force; except to say that, in the face of their customary provocation and violence, which included the use of dog units, mounted units and riot units, the protesters remained peaceful.
As for the media, the degree of censorship in the UK biosecurity state is now so complete that the largest demonstrations in British history have either been completely ignored or reported as a few hundred ‘right-wing conspiracy theorists’. But as these photographs show, the millions of people on these marches are neither. On the contrary, they are, in a way I’ve never seen on any demonstration before in this country, a cross-section of the British People outside the bubble of Inner London. We may still be a minority in the UK, but we’re a growing minority, and we will not be silenced (or appeased by opening the pubs to the masked, tracked, tested and vaccinated).
The best protests — and these are the best I’ve ever been on — have a carnival-like atmosphere, in which the usual order of values is inverted: humans take precedence over cars on our city streets; our collective rights of way are asserted over individual rights of ownership; the police are cowered by the citizens they are sent to intimidate; and the voices of the people are raised above the threats of the government and the lies of the media. In this respect, one of my favourite aspects of these marches has been the stickers. As these photos show, these draw attention to, de-normalise and counter the unprecedented level of propaganda to which we are subjected on every screen and surface, from buses, bus stops, billboards and shop windows to the boards especially erected on our streets. To these government-sponsored campaigns of fear and division, these stickers, like the thousands of home-made banners of the marchers, oppose courage and community.
Those whose protests are confined to posts on social media always ask the same question, in the hope it will excuse their apathy: what does protest change? As these photographs also show, it changes those protesting. It shows those who have been isolated that they are not alone. It allows the silenced to exchange views and information. It organises individual dissent into collective opposition. And without it, the rights and freedoms we’ve allowed to be stolen from us would never have been won.
Personally, I’m not concerned that our protests are not being reported by the BBC and corporate-owned media, as their blanket censorship of the British public is the clearest demonstration yet of the lies and manipulation of public opinion on which the UK biosecurity state is being built. But the purpose of demonstrating is not to get on the 9 o’clock News or in the Sunday Papers, which always lie about demonstrators and misrepresent what they’re saying. The purpose of demonstrating is to attract more people to join in, till there’s more of us marching on the street than are complaining about us on social media. When that happens — as it will if we make it — a period of political change begins. Please join us.
Architects for Social Housing