Of course the professional demonstrators were in evidence (Socialist Worker obviously still going strong after all these years) but there were also plenty of people in suits (who presumably, like me, had come from work), as well as countless ordinary-looking people who looked like they'd come to London to make a day of it.
On the train home, I listened to the radio to hear Radio 4 say that people were protesting Bush's visit. Er.....not quite. At least not for me. As far as I am concerned he is welcome to visit the UK. I just don't like his stance on Iraq, that's why I turned up. I'm one of many people who believes I've been lied to by George Bush and Tony Blair regarding the justification for invading Iraq. I believe an invasion was the only thing on their agenda right from Day One, and that they have used whatever means available to them to make this happen. And I think these people need to be made aware that there are lots of voiceless people who think that what they did was plain wrong.
So, I disagree with them. But I disagree with lots of things (Jacqueline will verify this!) but am not often moved to protest. So why now?
Well, I think the things which made the difference were a couple of puerile statements from the White House press machine, plus reading some comments on the BBC's web site from American readers, who said how difficult it is to protest in the USA these days. The White House statements?
- you should be thankful that you're allowed to protest - Iraquis weren't allowed to.
Where I differ from these "wise men" is not in the appreciation of the problem, but in what the solution was. From where I'm standing, this was exactly the stance of France, Germany and Russia also. I don't even think this difference is particularly subtle - even somebody like me can articulate it in a couple of sentences. But it does seem to have escaped many supporters of the invasion, including, it would seem, the White House.
The second point on this same statement, and this really exposes the shallow depth of the original remark, is to raise the question "Does the fact that people in some countries are not "at liberty" justify going to war against the countries? If so, one could very quickly build a list of countries....But I'm sure that very few people would make that assertion - it's just too simplistic. So too is the White House's statement.
- There's no point being against the invasion now. The invasion has happened. Deal with it. What we need to do now is to look forward to plan the future for Iraq.
This is why people protest. Because the people who made the decisions are still making the decisions, and if they made the wrong decisions 6 months ago they could make the same wrong decisions tomorrow. I sometimes despair for the world my daughter will inherit.