Accounts from Alan Beat, Sue and Lynne
A power cut until 8 pm tonight has left little time to write a full account of the London Demo. - but here goes.
Yesterday I left home at 6.30 am and returned at 11 pm. A long day, shared by many others.
The coach was due to leave South Moulton cattle market at 8 am. A total of twenty-odd people gradually arrived, plus two film crews from regional TV. I gave a short interview outlining the demands for a public inquiry and for vaccination now, a few others did the same, then we departed about 20 minutes behind schedule. Leaving the M5 at junction 22 to collect the Somerset protestors, the coach headed for London, almost full. There were all ages from young children to the elderly, and a range of interests from 200-head dairy farmers right through to those with no livestock at all. We had a whip-round for the coach hire, £15 per adult puts the standard train fare of £130 into perspective! A 45 minute break at a service area enabled some to enjoy their first meal of the day - those of us familiar with motorway food had brought our own! Then on again to a 10 minute "pit-stop" just before central London. We pulled in to Hyde Park Corner around 1 pm. A brisk walk along the park brought us to Speakers Corner, only just in time to catch the last sentence of David Handley's speech before the march moved off with our contingent at the rear.
The police presence and organisation was impressive. I saw more policemen in two hours than in thirteen years of living in Devon. Scores of them on foot; motor cyclists and patrol cars too. Part of the road was cordoned off for our benefit. The column marched out from the park and back along Park Lane towards Hyde Park Corner, sporting banners and placards, with some wearing "costume". I estimated seven or eight hundred marchers at this point, later I learned the police estimated one thousand. The chanting began: "What do we want? Public Inquiry! When do we want it? NOW!"
Swinging round into Piccadilly, we entered a street thronged with pedestrians who lined the pavements both sides to stare. The tall buildings on either side gave an amplifying effect to the chanting as it echoed back and forth "IN-QUIR-Y! IN-QUIR-Y!" Faces appeared in windows and doorways as people craned to see what was happening. At Picaddilly Circus the traffic stopped as the column filed slowly through. We turned down Haymarket, then along Pall Mall into the open space of Trafalgar Square. Again, the London traffic had to stop. Into Whitehall and past the Horse Guards - hell, we were all hoarse by this time. The police coralled us into an area at the roadside, opposite Downing Street. Here David Handley of Farmers For Action gave a short speech, thanking all concerned, and spelling out to the waiting press and TV cameras that this was a warning forTony Blair. If he didn't listen, we'd be back a second time in greater numbers to bring London to a standstill.
A delegation now entered Downing Street to present the petitions to No. 10. Interviews and photo-calls for the press brought the proceedings to a close. The march dispersed to filter back towards Hyde Park and the waiting coaches. For country types, it's been hot and airless, and surprisingly tiring walking a distance on roads instead of turf. There's time to eat and drink in the shade while the stragglers find their way back. The coach departs at 4.50 pm, makes another long stop half-way back, and finally pulls in to South Moulton after 9.30 pm. After last farewells, I jump in the car for another hour's drive home. I've sat down for most of the day yet I'm tired out. Next morning, my leg muscles are stiff and aching from long hours of inactivity on the coach - I'm just not used to it, or maybe I'm getting old.
Was it worth it?
Protestors had come from all over the country - the South West, Wales and the Brecons, Forest of Dean, Yorkshire, Cumbria, even the Scottish borders. There was passion and anger on display. There was a sense among the marchers that this was just the first round - that more, much more, would be necessary to force change.
David Handley is a charismatic leader, and attracts the media coverage that is so essential to this cause. The politicians cannot afford to ignore him, after he and his associates made fools of them and brought the whole country to a near-standstill with the fuel protest last year. They have to take him seriously this time. It will be interesting to see how the situation develops.
On a personal note, I was very pleased to meet some "E-mail friends" for the first time, yet disappointed that our contingent arrived only just in time to take part. Had we arrived an hour before the march as planned, there would have been a valuable opportunity to talk with those from other parts of the UK. I was looking forward to meeting many more, but as it turned out, this was not to be. Apologies to those I missed - see you next time!
Have at last woken up! I guess I'm getting a bit long in the tooth for two nights without sleep! However, well worth it.
I have now read all postings to date and I would like to make a couple of comments.
Firstly, there is no doubt in my mind that there were more than 600 protestors, I would say around 1,000. We certainly made a noise and were listened to and cheered by spectators.
Having spent ten years of my life living in the west end of London, and having seen protests every weekend during that time, this is the only time I have ever seen cheering by workers and shoppers. Even the taxi drivers cheered at us! That has got to be a first! I have never seen as many people stop and read banners. Normally protests are an inconvenience to the city folk and tend to be ignored and avoided. Not yesterday though - there may only have been a thousand of us, but believe me, we got noticed. Also, I could not believe the amount of Police - must have had them running scared. Don't know what they thought we were going to do, but there was more than enough of them!!
There was lots of media there, so there will be reels of film just waiting to be shown. Sadly though Blair's Broadcasting Company will no doubt be under strict instructions to play it down. Perhaps Julian Rush of Channel 4 might be more accommodating. Anyone with video footage contacted him?
It was good to meet more of the group and put faces to names (apart from Quita that is - 'fraid I might not recognise you without your mask!!) Also thank you to the lady who gave me the brolly to carry with various messages to Tony! It will be kept in a very safe place for the next time. ....
Well done to everyone - and see you all at the next one. Don't forget what David Handley said - to every person there - bring three friends each! And for those of you who were unable to come, please start now to make arrangements to be able to attend the next one.
It is not only a public enquiry and vaccination we are fighting for, we are fighting to save our country. If we don't do something positive now, we will lose it for ever. And that includes our animals and farming. At long last, I see a ray of sunshine among the thick black clouds.
Here's to GREAT Britain!
Yes I thought the reaction from the public was brilliant, but I have to correct you slightly on the police presence Lynne. They were there to assist us as much as anything else - and indeed the way the traffic was cleared for us in one of the busiest parts of London was a tribute to them - and their behaviour towards us was excellent and I thought most sympathetic (one of them gave out a handful of sweets to a group of us) - they certainly merited the round of applause they got from us at the end and their appreciation of that was obvious. Equally we all behaved impeccably and both sides demonstrated that the right to peaceful protest is still possible and permissable.
BTW if this doesnt string together terribly well apologies. The Aberdeenshire contingent has just arrived back after driving 1180 miles in 36 hours so I am feeling just a tad tired. Best wishes
Firstly thank you everyone who attended yesterday, it was a great success, police estimate figures at around the 1000 mark, extraordinary in view that it was organised in just a week. To those of you who did'nt you missed a great day out and we hope you will be able to join us next time.
BBC did us proud, with coverage nationally on 1 pm, and 6pm news, and on all news reports on BBC Wales with interviews etc., Also good reports from Central TV and South West.
If you wish to purchase photographs from yesterday, FFA member Mark R. Heath, who is professional photographer, took 166 frames and they can be viewed and purchase on his web site at http://www.markrheath.co.uk They are excellent and well worth a look.
Remember, there will be more action to come - please join FFA, membership form on http://www.farmersforaction.fsnet.co.uk to keep up to date and remember "it is very easy to be brave from a safe distance" very apt for our critics!
Best wishes & thank you
David Handley & Farmers For Action