online: 1 october 2002

28 september 2002 a political walk

A walk in Hyde Park amongst thousands* of people opposing the threatened war against Iraq.

I'm not attempting to record the many things that took my attention ...too many to write... just some of the placards** that looked as if they had been made by individuals and some remarks by people I spoke to. Here are my brief notes written at the time with explanations and comments added later:

wrong war
I think this placard was hand-written on brown cardboard. (Noting this gave me the idea of recording some of the hand-made placards.)

'i'm a walking artist'
said a man holding up a copy of the dove poster that Picasso made for peace demonstrations in the 1950s.

a picture of ourselves
I felt instantly lifted out of the passivity of being in this vast audience when a view of all of us watching and listening to the speakers appeared briefly on the big screen.

It straight away gave me the idea that, if the self-awareness of everyone there was integrally combined with the public speaking, this nineteenth-century way of protesting by marching with placards and oratory could find its modern form... interactive form in which everyone would be a part and the hierarchies (including that of the self-appointed organising committee) could be transcended... a whole new theory and practice of public protest (and even of politics) could become possible

Abou - he's hoping to study international politics at Aberystwyth
A young man to whom I spoke at one of the stalls distributing leaflets - he was glad to hear what I could tell him of the early days of the university at Aber (of which I knew from my father's stories and from my childhood memories).

He is part Yemeni but was brought up to speak French and several other languages but feels that France is his country.

We talked of the folly and narrowness of settler cultures and monocultures - and such topics - and I felt encouraged to meet and to share ideas with a young person who is so multicultural and of like mind. An international citizen - perhaps the kind of person who will make a difference?

'don't attack Iraq' on a dog
An and elegant-looking dog (a shaggy kind of greyhound?) walking about unaware that someone had attached one of the 'DON'T ATTACK IRAQ' leaflets to its back.

I believe that war against Iraq at this current time is unwise
hand drawn on unfolded cardboard box - the person who'd made it was very young

tony stop taking the peace
other worlds are possible

with a painting of a tank sprinkling water onto flowers from its watering-can spout in place of a gun.

The man who had made it told me he went into a textile workshop to purchase the cloth on which he painted this message but when they heard it was for the protest they didn't charge him.

One of his companions gave me a white feather from her head-dress - she said it represented the white feathers of cowardice that women gave to conscientious objectors to World War One. I think she meant it as a gift not a label. I picked up a brown feather (that looked as if it had fallen from a bird) to go with it.

one bad man is not enough to start a war (for?)

try Sharon for war crimes
Sabra Shatila & Jenin

(and a drawing of bird looking at their names)

killing any human is an act of terrorism [no matter how you justify it]
carried by a man in female wig, make-up, clothes and with distended belly as if pregnant... I thought this was the most profound protest statement I'd seen.
I walked beside her/him in the crowds going back to the city after the demonstration was over and talked of being on both sides of an issue. I recalled being in both the army and the air force and later becoming a conscientious objector to the British war in Malaya, in 1950, at which I resigned from the University Air Squadron who'd taught me to fly.

I collected various leaflets, mostly about the Israel/Palestine conflict, which perhaps I will comment on later.


* Various estimates of the number of people in the demonstration:

a bit less than 10 per second = about 500 per minute = about 50k per hr = 150k in about 3 hrs.

I counted the number of people passing per second through the gate to Hyde Park. They walked in for about three hours which gives a total of about 150,000. Some BBC people I spoke to had also estimated this number

the speakers on the platform said 300,000.

The next day I saw a headline in the Independent on Sunday: Hundreds of Thousands March Against and Attack on Iraq.

Today I read 350,000 in an email from the Artists Against the War group (whose messages I receive but don't often obey - but one of their messages brought me to the demonstration).

**there were hundreds of identical placards produced by the Stop the War Coalition in collaboration with the Muslim Association of Britain and supported by CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), inscribed thus:

DON'T ATTACK IRAQ (in large letters) FREEDOM FOR PALESTINE (in smaller letters)

My own protest (which I'd sent to an email discussion of the threatened war) was:

Tony Blair: Please invite UN inspection of weapons of mass-destruction in Britain, and suggest inspection of the USA and of the other states with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

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© 2002 john chris jones

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