I followed the Wave of Action Protest,
to see what it was all about…
On Friday 4th of April I travelled towards Trafalgar Square to find one of the many protests to be held in Central London. The protest I was hunting down was called “Wave of Action” (https://waveofaction.org) who were running a worldwide protest in most countries. I arrived at Trafalgar square around 3pm expecting more than enough people to have gathered to support the protest, I could only see buskers and small charities among a vast crowd of tourists. I got in contact with the protest via Facebook and I met up with them shortly after outside the entrance of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Around 50 of them, maybe less had shown up to protest. A police car and van was already sat in front of them waiting for anything to spark.
The protesters sat around in a circle and sang a few songs, the gave sheets of information to the local businesses and people passing by, so I set on searching the surrounding area to see what the police were doing. A street away I found another 4 police vans waiting about, already I could realise how many more police than protesters there was. After an hour or even less of them been in a circle, I returned to find out the police had gone over to complain, there was confusion everywhere, protesters and police arguing amongst one another. One of the women from the protest ran to get a what looked like a member of security for the Cathedral. Two minutes after, he stormed off from the protesters, I managed to catch him and asked him why they are being moved his response was “These… these crazy people!”. That wasn’t what I was expecting, at all. The protest moved, walking down the Strand, back towards trafalgar square.
Walking down the street following the protesters, some stopped off at a local off-license to stock up on booze, which I didn’t think was a responsible way of protesting, especially seen as they just got escorted away from an area. It seemed a few of the protesters were drinking. Minutes later, further down the street, a woman who had been in the protest, and had been drinking, was holding up a zebra crossing, showing the posters and banners they had with them. Some protesters were ahead of the others and turned back to utter confusion as to why they had stopped in such a random place. I got talking to one Liverpudlian protester who just returned to zebra crossing, he told me that the reason they moved from St. Paul’s is because they were noise complaints and that he wasn’t happy with the turn out of the protest, he expected more people like the previous ones. You could hear the atmosphere of the cities streets over the circle, they was no need for the protesters to move, it simple was a peaceful protest then… Until this. One women who even the protesters were trying to hold back carried on, ignoring some of the bystanders who were wanting to cross, most of the people stood watching talking amongst each other as to why so many police were needed, 4 police vans that had followed helped blocking the street, and 4 officers stood either side of the crossing and a handful of them in the centre dictating people when to cross and traffic to go through. People were amazed at the amount of officers stood around not doing much, holding back one drunk woman. People didn’t know weather to laugh or moan, at either the protest or police.
One officer got a tad wound up when he dragged the women to the wall I was standing against, pushing her against it with his finger pointing in her face like an old school teacher telling off a kinder garden child, he warned her if she carried on, she would be arrested, yet. She was just walking back and forth on a zebra crossing, dancing and crawling at times. The hold up or occupation of this crossing made more people stand and stare at them, maybe more people were thinking “what a bunch of arse-holes, holding up the crossing” whilst other’s thought, “to many police, to little protesters”.
I was lost, confused, I didn’t know why they had stopped at the crossing to hold it up. I did think the amount of police was madness, but I also thought the amount of drunks in this protest was madness. Days before the Wave of Action Facebook page warned people attending that they would be people trying to give the protest a bad name, maybe I was watching these people they were talking about, or maybe I showed up to the wrong protest and back at trafalgar square it would be booming of protesters.
The protest returned to Trafalgar Square, after a long confusing afternoon, and they settled on the stairs, the police, surrounding the square in vans, and almost guarding the protesters from… nothing. I left shortly after, but this was one confusing, frustrating and eye-opening day, I am still getting my head around the police. Maybe the government plan to smother these protests in police because they want the public to think they are a bunch of crazy people, maybe they think it could end up like the recent student protest were the police hadn’t much control. Or maybe they were scared of the drunks within the protest kicking off at the public, which I highly doubted. The way I look at the events that happened during this day – the police knew about this, didn’t want this, and tried to disband them as fast as possible. But if we live under these rules, then how do we live in democracy? Where the fuck has our freedom of speech gone? Freedom of protest. All of these words seemed to vanish away letter by letter as I saw more and more police and less protesters.
After the protest, on Facebook an anonymous representative from Wave of Action said on behalf of the protest “The individuals that were involved in the excessive drinking are not affiliated with the true spirit of wave. Protesters must sometimes make personal sacrifices for the cause, whatever that might be, to protect the good of the majority. When people act in the ways that they did, they remove the individuals human right to free protest and association, due to the fact they cannot control how they are viewed by the majority of the public, who will see the minority alone. a great shame”. I couldn’t agree more with him, but it’s how this can change in the future that I believe is a greater challenge not just for this protest, but maybe for Wave of Action around the world.