4 January 2009

March for peace

On Saturday I went on what could be the first of several demonstrations against the violence in Gaza.

The march started at Embankment, on the Thames in Central London. It was due to start at 12:30 but I got there just after 1:00 (I had to take my eldest son to Pizza Express first).

The march had already started but there were still many people congregated there waiting to move out.

We took a fairly familiar route, heading first along Victoria Embankment towards Westminster and then back along Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.

Also familiar were the colourful banners (mass produced and home made), the chanting, the mix of people different in many ways but united in one, and the sheer comfort of being in a large crowd with a common purpose.

Trafalgar Square provided a dramatic setting for the rally at the end of the march. In happier circumstances I would have spent more time savouring the architecture and art but buildings like the National Gallery were only a backdrop, a solid silent frame to enclose the movement and noise of the crowd.

There were several speakers but, to be honest, there was not that much that needed to be said as we all knew that the immediate need was for Israel to stop the killing.

I walked around the square to absorb myself in the atmosphere of the event and caught sight of Ken Livingston and Tony Benn. The later has been a hero of mine for many years and the former has said some wise words on the current situation, especially the comparison with Northern Ireland where the UK deliberately did not respond to acts of violence during the successful peace process.

Another demonstration is planned for next weekend in Hyde Park. I hope that it proves to be unnecessary but if the violence is still happening then I will be there.

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