the Disillusioned kid: Turning Up The Heat?
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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Turning Up The Heat?

Political involvement sometimes feels a bit like the much-maligned proverbial bus. You don't do anything for ages and then you end up doing three things in one week. Last Saturday I atttended an excellent teach-in organised by the always worthwhile Iraq Occupation Focus; on Wednesday I went along to a meeting on trade justice organised by Chelmsford Fairtrade "Action" Group and today I ended up on the Campaign Against Climate Change national demo, part of an international day of action timed to coincide with the First "Meeting of Parties" to the Kyoto Protocol taking place in Montreal.

I think I've suggested before that I'm not all that keen on big demos. In fact I might have put it a little stronger than that. Reservations aside, I understand that they do have a role to play in putting pressure on our so-called leaders and in lieu of anything more useful to contribute to the cause I decided to saunter along and show my face. If nothing else, these things are a good chance to catch up with friends from across the country. While I hadn't planned to meet anyone in particular, I had heard on the grapevine that peeps were coming down from Nottingham and figured if I wandered around for long enough I'd run into somebody I knew.

Unusually for me I managed to get there early. Over an hour before the demo was due to start in fact. Unsurprisingly, there weren't many people around at that point , although the paper sellers were already out in force. This was something of a surprise, while I was aware that various socialist groups were cogniscent of the issue of climate change, I hadn't thought it was something they approached with a great deal of enthusiasm. All grist for the mill, I suppose.

After wandering in my usual aimless manner for an indeterminate period I ran into Daniel Randall, NUS bureaucrat and Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL) member. The upshot of this chance encounter was that I was briefly assimilated into an AWL-dominated "action committee", although I've been sworn to secrecy as to the details of our transient alliance, you know what those vanguardist revolutionaries are like. Fortunately, I managed to slip away to meet up with people from Nottingham in time for the start for the march.

For the most part, the march was about what I'd expected. The somewhat meandering route took us from Lincoln's Inn Fields, down to Embankment, up to and past Parliament, down Whitehall allowing a chance to shout at (a no doubt empty) Downing Street, past Trafalgar Square, up to Piccadily Circus onto Park Road and then via various roads I don't know to the rally at Grosvenor Square. We started off around a bunch of chanting Swappies. This presented us with an unexpected chance to gauge the state of civil liberties in Britain. It is now, it seems, illegal to use a megaphone within a mile of Parliament, even when you're on an authorised demonstration which goes past the seat of British "democracy." To be honest, I don't like megaphones on demos. The people who end up with them are generally those who need them least, but if I have to chose between them and the police, it's not something I need to think about for very long.

Things really got interesting when we to Parliament. Somebody (I don't know who and even if I did I wouldn't say here) decided to initiate a sit-down and perhaps 50 people decided to join in. Being a respectable member of society I, of course, didn't get involved. *ahem* These things follow a familiar pattern and predictably the police started looking for ringleaders (as if a sit-down requires more than five seconds planning) and tried to utilise the stewards to move us on. One steward took to the task with vigour, although strangely he didn't respond too well to my suggestion that he might consider joining the police. Humourless bastard. (Incidentally it's taking all my self-control not to publish my photos of the wanker.) In the end the suddenly inclement weather did a better job of moving us off than the police and we departed at running pace, with somebody rearranging the fence as we went (leading to one person, being dragged off by the police).

Not much happened after that, certainly nothing very exciting. I ran into a friend who I hadn't seen in a while and we made our way to Grosvenor Square where we were crammed into a small space infront of the US Embassy so that the figureheads of the movement (John Rees, Caroline Lucas MEP, Michael Meacher MP et al) might explain to us why we were there. The choice of a rally point had considerable resonance given US intransigence on the issue of climate change, but I worry that focusing on the Americans - who we in Blighty have next to no influence on anyway - risks exculpating Blair who has talked tough on global warming, but done little. Indeed, the Campaign Against Climate Change suggest on their website that "from the leaked transcript from an international meeting in New York, and from his speech at the Labour Party Conference, it now looks like Blair is moving stealthily towards the Bush position which does not back mandatory emissions cuts but which just encourages voluntary 'incentives'." While Blair will no doubt make a lot of political capital out of the issue in the nascent "debate" about nuclear power lets not kid ourselves or anybody else that he's some kind of green messiah here to lead us to the promised land. (Try and forgive the mangled theological references.)

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the PA was pathetic and you couldn't hear what was being said by Messrs Rees, Lucas and Meacher unless you pressed your ear up against the speaker, although you could kind of guess what the gist would be. At this point boredom got the better of me and I decided to call it a day, proceeding within minutes to get lost in London. All in all, another exciting day in activistland. Sorta.

(Note: all photos by me except the one of the musicians which is purloined from Indymedia.)

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