20100501

Number 30- Join a Protest

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Without doubt one of the most hilarious activities I've ever been involved with!

Why did I want to join a protest? I hear you ask. Well as kid I had a friend who was never available on the weekends. The reason for this was because his parents were protestors and would drag him around the country for various events. I asked my mate what it was that his parents were actually protesting about and he said that they just liked protesting in general and so would essentially protest about anything. This amazed me; the concept of protesting about something that you didn't particularly know much about.

With this in mind, I joined a protest this morning having absolutely no idea what it was actually about. What a learning curve!

On the 1st May, every year throughout Europe, protestors take to the streets to relay messages of unrest and change. These are more commonly known as the May Day Protests. Today I found myself in London where in Parliament Square there were a smorgasbord of different protests being held.

Today I was going to be part of the "UK Election Meltdown" protest. Seeming quite colourful on their website with a slightly theatrical theme, this was the obvious choice.

My only real insight into our campaign was that it had something to do with British politicians.

Unfortunately I was the first protestor to arrive at the muster point and so the only people who I could talk to were the throng of Policeman who were waiting eagerly for the planned mayhem.



The calm before the storm

Not long after picking their brains on the do's and dont's of protesting, the first of a few protestors arrived to join me. Carrying rolled up banners, a two-piece horse outfit and a tied-up mannequin depicting the Conservative party leader, David cameron, they certainly looked prepared.

Excusing myself from the now excited policeman, I walked straight up to the new comers and offered my services,

"Well you can be the front part of the horse if you like?" And that was that; I found my place for the day. I was going to be horse. A horse with no idea of what we were protesting about!

What was the role of the horse? Well 30 minutes later this became quite clear, I was to lead the entire protest as we marched from our muster point to Parliament Square. I wasn't just participating in this protest, I was leading it.

I walked/cantered onto the busy road (which the police were happy with us doing), stopping traffic spear-heading a motley bunch of anti-capatalists on a war-path to the middle of town. This was exciting. Our group of roughly 50 people, armed with a megaphone and a terrible assortment of chants, followed my lead for another 30 minutes as TV film crews, photo journalists and onlookers swarmed our every move. This event was huge!


Hitting the streets

We were one of four protest groups who would meet at Parliament Square. Each group represented one politician who would then face the people's court once at our destination. An unfavourable sentance would see the politician be executed by way of hanging or beheading. Listening to the first chant, I felt that the politicians fate was already decided;

"Build a bonfire,
Build a bonfire,
Put the bankers on the top,
Put Cameron in the middle,
And burn the bloody lot!"

Note: I have never met this Cameron chap, and so if you are reading this Cameron, I apologise for joining in with the singing. I didn't mean it, I was just a horse obeying orders.

Reaching Parliament Square, you would have been forgiven for thinking the circus was in town. Flags, odd costumes and face-paint was a must and the vibe was one i've never experienced before; a sort of completely controlled yet controversial gathering of people opposing the law.

As the script ran, it took almost an hour of more photos and interviews with national press outlets before the trials began. At this stage I had managed to convince someone to take my place as a horse, allowing me to get near to the staged hanging podium which would host the last moments of our mannequins lives. An executioner, dressed in full black attire (including mask and axe) stood at the front of the stage calling each politician to the stage one after the other. His commitment to the role was so great that I would hazard a guess that this man had actually killed at least 3 real men in his time.

As it happened, my positioning was perfect and I was now being used as the person who would bring the bodies to the stage. This role soon developed again into actually helping the executioner apply the noose around the necks of these poor politicians.

Infront of hundreds of people, I had not only become an accomplice to murder, but also a welcomed member of what is sure to be a well known protest group tomorrow morning in the media. Camera's surrounded the stage as if me and the heavy-set executioner had just won the double title at Wimbledon and were ready to lift the trophy. The truth was that we had just sentanced someone to death and were about to lift their body onto the chopping block.

Once strung-up, the executioner would yell at the crowd something to the effect of; shall we kill this scum-bag politician? To which the blood-thirsty crowd would respond with a flurry of fist-pumps and screams. The executioner would then hoist the body up into the air and let it hang there for a moment. This was not what I had expected, I felt awkward but I quickly learnt to go with it.


Hung parliament

As I stood there gazing up at the cheaply made mannequin dangling from a rope, I grimaced as I wondered what my Mum would think if she was here. As this thought crossed my mind, the executioner dropped the body into my arms and asked me to throw it to the crowd. I had to play the part and so in the same fashion that I had heard just before, I held the body in my arms and yelled at the crowd in a strong Cockney accent;

"Who wants 'im?"

Apparently everyone wanted him, and so I launched the deceased politician to the third row of people who took to his body like a pack of sharks attacking a floating seal in the ocean.


Lamb to the slaughter

The mayhem of the day continued for hours and at some stage during that I decided that I had experienced a protest that I would never forget.

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