Monday, 15 August 2011

Peace March

The big police officer with the sandy beard is down from Norfolk. I ask him how many people there are marching and he's not sure. “This is a bit bigger than we're used to” he jokes.

We conclude that about 1,000 people had started in Dalston Kingsland and arrived in front of Tottenham Town Hall.

It started off quite small in Gillette Square, a stone's throw from the famous stand of the Turkish and Kurdish shopkeepers against thugs and looters. People kept arriving. You know, people.

Cameras circulate, looking for stories.

A white lad who must have been about 15 said he thought setting fire to shops was wrong, and also he had found it hard working for nothing for 3 weeks and then being told at the end of it that he had no job.

An Englishman with a beard talks in Spanish trying to explain why he thinks social deprivation in pockets of the richest city in the world might have been caused by economic problems.

A Kurdish woman in a black t-shirt participates in an organisers meeting where it's assumed that this is a peaceful march, and they agree on sensible rules.

One minute of silence is observed, more or less. Waves of hush settle on the crowd for the dead, the 6 people killed so far. People shout in whisper “Have some respect!” The crowd silences .

Then we march off. North to Tottenham.

We march only two miles, but when you're shuffling very slowly your feet hurt. It's the museum shuffle, a young woman tells me, and an old man confirms.

The best chants are all about rhythm. Oghie Oghie , Aye, Aye Aye!

The best of the chants were “Keep our kids in youth clubs , not in Jail!” Go on, try it. The next best was “The bankers are the looters, Give our kids a future!” Better rhyming.

At the front of it all were children with flowers. Dozens of cameras glided like insects.

The worst of the chants were “Stop the Police murderers, disband the police force!” Well yes, if we disband the police we know that all murders will not have been caused by the police, because there are no police. I suspect there would be more murders without the police, but then, who'd be counting?

Finally as we approach Tottenham Town Hall we get on message. "Give our Kids a future" is the rallying cry. Some locals look apprehensive, but others clap.

And we get there. And people of good sense speak. And a young Afro Caribbean woman speak and and says “Is there Love”

And we say “Love”.

Damn, I'm going to turn in my cynic's card and sign up to be a hippy.

Although we were carpeted with cameras, almost no mention in the media the next day. Well, the "Morning Star." And in the Sunday Indie an article by David Lammy, MP for one of the worst affected areas, has a picture of the adorable kids with flowers- and a caption saying it was from an anti English Defence League march in Telford. It seems good news is no news, and adds weight to the view that it's only when riots start happening that serious attention is given to inner city deprivation.

On the way home I stop to talk to a grizzled police officer at London Bridge. Turns out he's up from Folkstone. “This is a bit bigger than we're used to” he jokes.

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