ND – Wet, Very wet, Blue
On Sunday 3rd October 2010 the recently elected Conservative Party started its four-day annual general conference in Birmingham UK. As the delegates gathered and the first speeches were being made, many thousands of anti cuts protesters gathered in a derelict car park at the bottom of Ludgate Hill just off Queensway. Banners, shouting and rhetoric were not dampened by the rain and a mass of police looked on.
I followed the ensuing march through the city centre, around Paradise Circus, along Holliday Street and back around onto Broad Street towards Five Ways. All in all there was little evident trouble and the peaceful protest was handled very well by the calm and occasional humour of the police that I came across and witnessed.
A small number of people were detained in a group close to Five Ways and held for some time as they were individually checked out and processed.
This article is a photo story covering various scenes in and around the march, and contains my feelings at certain times as to the merits or hypocrisy I caught through my lens.
All images were shot with a Nikon D700 FX digital SLR, with the Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 VR. It rained for much of the event and the camera never missed a beat, but that’s all irrelevant to the story ahead…
The shouts were loud, they’d had their spot on Television this morning, and now it was time to move. We were drenched quickly, the followers and the followed. Police looked on, and so did I, though for different reasons. The police helicopter watched us all.
Though I witnessed no obvious support for Labour, the strong Red theme, Socialist Worker literature and clear anti Conservative stance indicated a clear swing in Labour’s direction. However, from the off, although the protests were ostensibly focussed on David Cameron as the perpetrator of the crowd’s anger, I couldn’t help coming back to the thought that the cuts were a strong reaction forced by the huge economic crises that had happened in the twilight of the receded Labour regime’s lengthy watch. Whilst the “Global Economic Crisis” was just that; Global, the governments that watched over its gradual birth allowed, some would argue encouraged, financial practices in the banking sector that brought us to this point. It is ultimately the governments and their un-watchful eyes that allowed this to happen, and that would be more Labour’s responsibility than either side of the current coalition.
Highlighting the coalition at this point is also valid, as only the Conservatives and their leader had been targeted here, whereas it may as well have been that their partners, Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democratic Party had not even existed. The march had one target, and it was written plain and large across a plethora of banners.
I need to be fair here, the Liberal Democrats did get a small mention. As depicted above, “Break the Con-Dem Coalition” occurred amongst the banners, but Nick Clegg’s image was conspicuous by its absence.
One of the things that’s brought distaste to my mouth before when I have witnessed various demonstrations is that a certain element become obnoxious, threatening, or displays some sentiment that does nothing but demeans the core message and the way they are delivering it. This is usually an act of individuals who, for whatever reason, are either not fully on-message or have a deliberate need to subvert, or simply not switch their brains on.
This banner depicting Margaret Thatcher was completely uncalled for, nasty, and had no real message to support the core theme of the march which was “Don’t make cuts or we’ll strike”. This message here was unnecessary and lessened the impact in my opinion of the overall cause.
Again, this anti fox-hunting message was an insult rather than a high brow accusation or valid complaint.
As I stated earlier, this was by all accounts a peaceful demonstration. People felt that they needed to be heard by their government, and that the message was fundamentally a good one. Yet some of those standing up to be counted clearly didn’t want to be counted too carefully. I found it amusing that in amongst the largely good-natured and well-meaning crowds, some felt that what they were doing was something they were not proud of. I even witnessed some such covered figures ridiculed by the uncovered majority.
So what were the protesters calling for? Fiscal equality, “tax the fat cats”, social welfare, something for everyone, the state to look after its poorest.
Five Ways is the large junction near the end of the march route. In an underpass a beggar sat down to ask those better off around him for a few coins. Some of those that came past were just the everyday people who do or don’t help him, but many were returning from the end of the march and had already demonstrated these social values.
Everyone ignored him.
A small group was surrounded and detained near the end of the march route on Broad St.
Peace & Prosperity,