Protest The Pope demo

I went to the Protest The Pope demo yesterday (& the Nope To Pope Party fundraiser on Friday night). Very nicely done, the best protest march/demo I’ve ever been to, and my hats off to the organisers.

I feel strangely compelled to mention my views on this, and political protests in general, so… here they are.

First, my reasons for protesting are the ones shared by a lot of people:

  • the Pope is the head of a very rich world organisation that places itself between God and humanity, and so above the law
  • charging the British taxpayer up to £100million to lecture us about how we are backward sinners who should do what we’re told
  • having a rather dodgy past on covering up organized child abuse
  • complicity with Nazism and the Holocaust
  • “we are doing God’s work, all else is gossip”
  • distortion of secular and progressive movementsas (for this visit)  third world aggressive secularists who want to ban Christmas
  • etc. etc. And that’s without getting into the religious/political aspects

Frankly, I suspect you’ll have either heard all this before (and may largely agree with me), or you haven’t, and I may sound like those people the Daily Mail warned you about.

I went by myself; I usually do, as no-one I know wants to go to them. It’s a bit lonely, but on the other hand I can move about freely. Pictures are on Flickr. Highlights (apart from all the amazing placards and speeches, of course) include me being given a pack of ‘Sin Condoms’ because I ‘looked evil’, being asked to pose with a family of Indonesian tourists on the grounds of my jacket and hat (& there I was just wearing something randomly suitable, already aware of being photographed a lot, imagine if I’d dressed up), and afterwards finding myself in a threeway of an Islamist megaphone squad, a set of raucous Catholic flag-wavers, and Teh Poep himself!!one! The Pope was mysteriously looking the other way the whole time. [1. I don't care how self-satisfied this sounds; how many people have taken a photo with fundamentalist Islam clerics AND THE POPE in the same shot?]

Right, so I’ve always had an interest in political demonstrations. Not necessarily the aims behind them, but the demos themselves; the act of a minority group expressing a political opinion (mostly by marching in Central London, with a long & distinguished history, which I am vaguely aware of). I’ve always had a “interested layman” approach to these, and for many years, just going along to them (& related ‘alternative sub-culture’ stuff) out of casual interest as a person who calls himself liberal & progressive.

Living in Portsmouth, I’d occasionally go to alternative fairs, politics meetings advertised on the Internet, and so on – usually a disappointment – I’d arrive to find no-one else had turned up, or it was just a bunch of stalls selling tat [2. anyone who's ever been to Camden will know the random piles of junk I mean.] or once an alarmly middle-class dreadlocked lady with a plummy accent urging us to go and slap apartheid stickers (in 2004) on bottles of milk in Tesco, which was apparently the giddy height of subversion.

Moving to London has increased my habit; from times I bothered with Flickr, here’s a Stop The War demo over the Israeli invasion of Lebanon but really about Blair’s invasion of Iraq, this is a Time To Go march over nuclear disarmament, but really about wanting Blair to resign. I went to the big anti-Iraq war demo in 2003, of course. In the last year or two alone, I’ve been to The Wave demo over climate change (really about everything from the Middle East, to protesting about Starbucks from people drinking from Starbucks cups, to wanting Gordon Brown to resign) , the G20 mass demo (the absolute motherlode of random crap – pick a topic!), a bunch of interchangeable Middle East demos…

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