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Being there

It is with great pride and honour that I can report that I, along with blogger Patrick Crozier and Chris Tame of the Libertarian Alliance took part in the Liberty and Livelihood march in London today. Samizdata contributor Antoine Clarke was also on the march and, although we communicated by text-mail, there were so many marchers that we never actually managed to meet up.

Did I say there were so many marchers? That does not even begin to tell the story. It was HUGE. I cannot recall ever seeing any public demonstration in Britain of this magnitude (and I’ve seen a few). The official figures state over 400,000 marchers but, from where we stood, that would appear to be an underestimate.

It began in from two points in Central London early this morning; two start points being necessary because of the enormous numbers involved. Even so, from our start point at Hyde Park, the throng was so large that it was next to impossible to actually determine where it began or where it ended. Eventually we just melded in where we could.

The atmosphere was one of pure defiance though there was no violence or law-breaking at all. The marchers were loud, proud and spirited, blowing whistles and horns, chanting and waving back to the cheering onlookers. Not once did the palpable grim resolve compromise the joyousness. It felt like a victory parade.

The most telling juxtaposition was provided by a handful (and I do mean a handful) of animal rights protestors, who all looked, well, how can I put this? Have you ever been on your way to an important business meeting and trodden in a dog-turd? That’s what they looked like.

Not being a photography-minded chap, I have no photos to post [Editor: sorted!] but I can recall some of the slogans that stood out from the sea of banners and flags carried along with the march (the Stars and Stripes being very prominent, incidentally).

This one stiffened my back:

“Born to Hunt, ready to Fight”

This one made me smile:

“We’ll keep our cowshit in the country,
you keep your bullshit in the town”

And this one raised the hairs on my neck:

“The Last Peaceful Demonstration”

Having moved among these people today, I am left with the distinct impression that they mean it.

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18 comments to Being there

  • Donna V.

    “The Last Peaceful Demonstration?” I hope not.

    In reading about your march, this Yank is reminded once again of the difference between the anti-globo left and the rest of us. Let’s continue to prove that you can hold a demo without throwing rocks through Starbuck’s windows, getting tear-gassed, or beating up people who disagree with you.

  • Howard Veit

    Isn’t there also a possibility that this was a safe outlet for people who are pissed off at lots of things going on in the Brit Left? I honestly can’t believe that 400,000 people are really worked up over killing some shitty little foxes. I mean who dresses up in those fruity outfits and rides to the fucking hounds? You can’t even get that many people to protest over killing human beings.

  • David Carr

    Howard, you’d be surprised what people get worked up about. They may be ‘shitty little foxes’ but hunting them thus is an old-established British tradition.

    The governments ‘jihad’ on country sports is seen by many here as a malicious campaign of cultural cleansing and, as it happens, I believe they are right

    Your own opening suggestion has a great deal of truth to it. British traditions are the focus, but the underlying discontent is a lot broader

  • Harry Eagar

    Stars and Stripes, eh? I would be surprised to see
    an American march with people waving the Union
    flag, or the Tricolor, or any other flag.

    I take it that what motivated those marchers was
    not foxes but something close to what inspires
    the “wise use” and “leave us alone” movements in
    the U.S. West. But there would not likely be a
    mass march of Western countryfolk, as they are
    too dispersed.

    One final comment. Thinking of the big demonstrations
    that have occurred in the USA over the last
    generation — and there have not been many —
    all were demanding to get something, money
    usually. I can’t recall Americans ever marching
    to say “let us alone.”

  • Jim

    Roll on the end of farm subsidies, I say…

  • Hamish

    Howard Veit: Fruity outfits? Typical ignorant bigot who dislikes anything he does not understand… he probably thinks anything other than the ratty old pair of jeans and screaming tee-shirt advertising MacDonalds that he is probably wearing is ‘fruity’. I wonder if he could stay in the saddle with us for even a mile? Would he even have the balls to try? I doubt it.

  • Kevin Connors

    This situation is not unique to Britain. In California, the lib/con rural areas have long been victim to the political hegemony of ultra-liberal urbans. Perhap a march on Sacramento should be next.

  • “I can’t recall Americans ever marching
    to say “let us alone,” wrote Harry Eagar.

    That’s because you have a constitution which says that for you.

  • Julian Morrison

    I was there. Interesting situation. Thing that struck me: zero litter. 400K people walk down the road *and don’t so much as drop a candy wrapper*. Interesting what that says about these folks.

    As to “the unspeakable in hot pursuit of the uneatable” – it’s more imprtant than it looks. The question being decided is: who runs the countryside? The guy whose land it is, or a bunch of bedwetting liberals back in London? Everyone knows the proposed new law is just a sop to back-benchers in parliament, and it pisses people off that their rights can be thrown away for a coldly political irrationality.

  • Ken

    Many congratulations for an orderly and hopefully hugely effective march.

    Alas, it will be our turn in Washington, DC this week to host the International Idiots Alliance, who will protest the WTO by blocking the streets and thus provide the perfect opportunity for terrorists to maximize any damage they might plan.

    My solution is to pass a 3 day law making the penalty for vehicular homicide a $25 fine when these bozos roll into town. Thoughts?

  • “My solution is to pass a 3 day law making the penalty for vehicular homicide a $25 fine when these bozos roll into town. Thoughts?”

    Is that fine per incident, per day, or is it good for all three days?

  • My brother-in-law and several of my nephews were in the March. I just wish I could have been there.

    It is really quite frightening once you start talking to country people. The depths of anger, resentment and frustration are incredible. Remember, these are the most law-abiding, naturally small-C conservative people in the whole country. There is open talk of law-breaking. I don’t mean merely gaming the law, by making 90-year old ladies Masters of Hounds etc.. I am talking about full-on, confrontational mass action.I can quite easily envisage a pack of hunt saboteurs being lynched.

    I don’t think Blair quite realises what he is fomenting here. This could go beyond protest to insurrection.

  • dave

    Don’t forget the case(s) of the rural/village homeowners getting locked up for shooting or just pointing a gun at people breaking in, at a time when police protection has been (apparently) withdrawn from the country outside of the cities. Another gun-related issue that is driven by increasing government restrictions.

  • I would be surprised to see
    an American march with people waving the Union
    flag, or the Tricolor, or any other flag.

    Then what are those people doing every March 17th?

    But there would not likely be a
    mass march of Western countryfolk, as they are
    too dispersed.

    We rural westerners tend to have quick tempers when it comes to the Feds, and we mix protest with direct action.

  • Diane

    Hello all from Texas,

    I’ve been having a little difficulty following all of this, but I’ll put my two cents worth in anyway. The whole fox hunting ban does seem silly. Are the foxes nearly extinct or something? We have hunting in the US. It’s practically a God given right in Texas. I don’t hunt. I don’t think there’s much sport in it anymore. However, I don’t think it should be banned. I don’t know about y’all, but we have laws here regulating what you can kill, when you can kill it, how many you can kill, and the size and age of what you can kill, right on down to fishing. We have entire bureaucratic agency in Texas to deal with this – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the Game Wardens to police the hunting and fishing. Has an alternative been suggested? Texas wants to keep its natural resources including our game, that’s why it’s regulated.

    My sincerest apologies if I’m being naive, but I thought I’d drop this in and see what y’all think.

    I do think people displaying the Stars and Stripes is probably a hommage to the fact we have these kinds of liberties in the US and we don’t question our right to hunt. Also, our system provides (even though many don’t understand this about our elections) safegaurds to keep a populace area from inflicting its will on less populated areas – a democratic republic.

    It is true you don’t see marches like this here. In the past they have been for things like civil and equal rights.

  • Rob Lyman

    I love it!!! I live in Seattle–on of the more P.C. liberal cities of the American west. But lord do I understand how these country Brits feel! I doubt I’d ever want to fox hunt–although, Hamish, I wouldn’t have a bit of trouble in the saddle for an hour, or six if you want, in blue jeans or fruity outfits–but I understand exactly their frustration. Fox hunters might not understand my love of pistol shooting, or antique German cars, either, but they wouldn’t try to stop me doing what I like.

    Why should some idiot tell me how to live or what to do? Why should my guns be regulated by someone who can’t tell me which end the bullets come out of? When did my retirement, my health, my property, my family become fit subjects for political decision making rather than simple consultation with my wife?

    Live and let live, I say. If someone isn’t hurting you, don’t slap him with a pile of steaming, smelly regulations.

  • I was all set to post Perry an e-mail about my latest entry on my blog [link below] about a march where 400,000 protested, not about anything that mattered but about hunting.

    I now realize it is wrong, but the impression I received and perhaps many others who happen to catch the story is that 400K marched about hunting and that’s it.

    Especially when the headline and first graph in the article I found was: 400,000 march in London: hardliners warn Blair of civil unrest
    The biggest peaceful street protest in British history ended yesterday with a warning to Tony Blair that a ban on foxhunting could lead to civil unrest.

  • John Brissenden

    Enough already. I wish I could invite the marchers to fill out a simple questionnnaire:
    1. How did you vote in the last election?
    2. Do you think Britain should join the euro?
    3. Do you think Britain should do more to curb immigration?
    4. Would those curbs apply to people from Zimbabwe?

    Let’s stop pretending. Behind the happy, well-meaning mask is a hard core of landowners, bigots, little Englanders who will never accept the idea of a legitimately-elected Labour government. One merely has to scratch the surface with these people for the foam-flecked bile to start flowing. The hard right in the US were never going to accept Clinton, and their well-connected friends here are similarly never going to accept Blair-Brown. To all the ordinary farmers and people who marched last September: YOU ARE BEING USED.