Taking to the streets
Peace rally in London
October 4, 2002
Last Saturday, I went to the peace rally in London protesting against a war on Iraq.
I went along with my mum and we bumped into many friends along the way, which was
great considering 400,000 people turned up (or 100,000 if you believe the standard
figure the police gave out. According to them, all peace marches have 100,000 attendants,
no more no less.)
It was a great day. People power was out in force. I bumped into some Jewish friends
on the way wearing 'free Palestine T-shirts' they gave my mum a badge with the same
slogan, which she hasn't taken off her cardigan yet.
The chanting was as ever unimaginative but hey, not all peace campaigners are lyricist
and 'Bush Bush! We know you! Your daddy was a killer too!' was easy enough to join
in with. However, no matter how strongly I feel about a cause, chanting always embarrasses
me slightly. I never know when to begin or end so usually end up murmuring something
peace orientated under my breath.
There were fractions of folk marching however that I found more than a little distressing
and my mother and I moved quickly to avoid. Under a huge banner of the Hezbollah
flag, we heard, in Farsi the chanting 'Marg Bar Amrica!' otherwise known as 'Death
to America!' Oh dear. Really not apt for a peace rally. As a person with a mild addiction
to Frappachino's I really can't condone such behaviour.
I thanked goodness that at least they said it in Farsi so the press wouldn't hear
of it, but then I opened my big mouth and translated for my journalist friend Andrew
Mueller who was with us and he noted it down to include in his article about the
march for Time Out, the most popular London magazine. Still, I made him promise
to say that he was with Iranian people who were appalled by this behaviour and who
regularly drank Frappachino's (with whipped cream).
After being stuck under bridge for a very long time due to the sheer numbers of protesters
(100,000 indeed!) we made a break for it and made a short cut to a part of the march,
which was actually marching. Quite a way in front of us I saw a huge banner being
held up by a line of bearded Muslim young men chanting 'Allah Akbar'. On the banner
they had drawn the Star of David, the 'equals' symbol, then a Swastika.
Now, I rarely confront people, especially if they are bigger than me, there are more
of them, and they have beards. However, my blood boiled and I found myself running
up to them in the line and shouting at them that their banner was anti-peace and
racist. I ranted and waggled my finger like a schoolteacher. They all turned their
backs on me and needless to say none of the White liberals who had tut-tutted at
the banner stuck up for me. Still, I'm glad I did it; I felt I owed it to my Jewish
friends who'd given my mum the 'Free Palestine' badge.
The march ended at Hyde Park where all the speeches were held. As we entered the
park, we saw a crazed young man with an Arab scarf and a strong Arabic accent running
around and cracking people up going 'Where is my Camel?! I have lost my Camel! Daisy!
Daisy! Where are you?' After our initial bewilderment we realised that it was just
my brother handing out flyer for our latest comedy show. Bless that boy. He's never
I didn't stay for the speeches, I think they underestimated the size of the crowd
and the sound system wasn't great, but my mother and I left heartened by the numbers
attended from all walks of life and looked forward to the press coverage in all the
papers the next day. How naïve of us.
The papers dedicated practically no column inches to such a historic march (the biggest
ever in Britain) instead the front pages were taken up by the sordid revelations
of an ex-Prime Minister John Major's affair with ex-Health Minister Edwina Currie
that happened ten years ago. Who
cares? They might as well have told us 'Nora next door had a fling with Sally's husband
years ago and nobody knew till now.' That's not front-page news! That should have
been a sniggering column in the gossipy papers, what about our march?
It was even more infuriating considering that the Countryside Alliance march the
week before got a huge amount of constant coverage before and after the event. A
bunch of Conservative toffs marching for their right to shoot foxes verses a march
for World Peace. It made me feel like shooting a few newspaper editors, in a peaceful
way. Of course neither of these events was a patch on a long-ended affair between
two repulsive ex-members of the Tory government. I have stopped buying the papers
as a protest.
Shappi Khorsandi is a standup comedian in the UK. See Features