Unite For Europe
I’m writing this on the way back to Sunderland, in a dimly lit coach. I wanted to get my thoughts about Saturday’s March down while they were still fresh in my mind.
As anyone who follows the Stand Up Twitter knows, I was in London at the weekend, for the United For Europe March, and I live tweeted for almost the entire March. It was a gorgeous day and not to sound corny, but it seemed like even the weather was on our side.
There were three things that struck me about the March.
The first was the sheer size of the crowd. Despite what the BBC might have said (and I’ll get to that in a moment) there were easily 125 000 people there, if not more. There were so many people that at one point, those in parliament square were asked to move up to let those still stuck on Whitehall and Westminster Bridge get into the square. I don’t think I ever saw the beginning or the end of the March and in fact it had to be delayed by an hour because so many more people turned up there was congestion!
The second thing that struck me was how peaceful the March was. There was almost no chanting, unlike other protests and strikes I’ve been a part of and witnessed. Undoubtedly, the awful attack on Westminster Bridge had everyone on their best behaviour, and in fact many people had flowers with them to lay at the site. I didn’t consciously notice myself, but a fellow marcher reckoned at least 1 in 5 people had flowers. I think it’s a mark of the sort of people who are against Brexit, but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. It’s still possible to be peaceful and make an awful lot of noise, in my personal opinion.
But the third thing that struck me, especially as a journalist, was how little media coverage there was. I spotted one helicopter, and maybe 3 news teams between Hyde Park Corner and Parliament Square. And you know What? It makes me angry. The actions of one man doing something awful were given far more media coverage than more than 100 000 people coming together PEACEFULLY to do something positive. I’m not trying to diminish the tragedy of the Westminster attack, don’t think that for a minute. But how on earth can the BBC and all the other mainstream media outlets justify using the same vox-pops and giving longer quotes to a pro Brexit onlooker, than to an actual marcher in an article about the event itself?
It wasn’t until maybe 3 hours into the event that mainstream news started to cover the event. Where was BBC Breaking? They certainly never responded to my Tweet. I’m joking (mostly) but it does make you wonder about the BBC’s priorities, when a 22 year old journalist MA student is willing to travel over 300 miles to report on the event for a publication that hasn’t even had its first issue yet, and they’re not.
The large majority of speakers were excellent, especially Labour MP David Lammy, who raised a particularly pertinent point — UKIP might have lost their seat in the House of Commons, (yes!) but the problem is that UKIP is in the cabinet and even in the Labour Party. The day even left me with a grudging respect for Alistair Campbell and Nick Clegg. (I was particularly amused to hear an ex-pat protester turn to her daughter and say in shocked tones “I never thought I’d be cheering for Alistair Campbell!)
I think the mood of the day was summed up best by one of the speakers from Students for EU. For me, they were one of the highlights of the day, being just the people that stand up is for. A 16 year old British Muslim from Watford who was a hell of a lot more erudite than a lot of ‘adults’ I know brought a fellow protester to tears.
I’ll leave you with a quote from their final speaker:
“The people have NOT spoken! We will not be ignored and we are NOT IRRELEVANT!”
Your move, Mayhem.
(This story was originally published on my own Medium account, as Siarlot Lloyd)