Four protests took place on Saturday in London all within a mile of each other,each with its own agenda yet joined by the uniqueness of a system we have grown use too, to the point of taking it for granted, democratic free speech. By far the largest, best organised and funded was the march to oppose Brexit down Whitehall to Parliament Square attended by over 500,000 people. Most of those protesting the Brexit vote were young, some only children. Those old enough to vote in the referendum never did so, nor prior to the vote showed any interest in the EU or any kind of politics for that matter. Yet now encouraged by a media campaign,they protest the result of a democratic vote to leave an organisation whose past record on democracy is playing lip service to the masses as both Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands can testify. This is not another Brexit/Remain rant, the outcome of either is unknown to me and anyone else if they are honest, my concern here is democracy itself. If the original vote was overturned tomorrow where would that leave the voters or for that point any other democratic vote in the future. Do we just keep having elections and referendums until we reach the impossible point of pleasing all of the people all of the time. The reality is democracy is unfair most of the time for most of the voters, at its mathematic best 49% are never represented. we have a choice of having a less than perfect system a democracy that appears to work or an alternative system of dictatorship which always works but never in the interest of those living under it.
The rights or wrongs of Brexit are not the point here, democracy, free speech and the right to protest are not a given and in many countries around the world carry frightening consequences for those who take to the street to protest government injustice.
The small protest in Trafalgar Square highlighted what many in Brazil consider the rise of fascism with the forthcoming election, which are seen as the most turbulent in the country’s history since the end of the military dictatorship (1964-1985) with the reserve army captain Jair Bolsonaro running for president. Bolsonaro not the popular choice with many Brazilians for his outspoken views and offensive comments often directed towards the black, indigenous and LGBTQ population.
Another small protest along Whitehall gathered to highlight the plight of executions in Iran, the country in fact with the worst record in the world for state executions with Saudi Arabia our friend and ally a very close second with a history of human right abuses that should make western government blush with shame each time they sign a new arms deal with the Saudi government,but that is the dirty world of real politics.
The fourth protest taking place that day again was not massively attended, perhaps only a few thousand people turned up to show support and solidarity to an issue our political parties care to ignore, the plight of service men and women returning from the combat zones of the world, very often wounded and suffering from PTSD who are ignored by a society who take for granted the work they do. Regardless of our opinion regarding the political decisions and motivations of where and who our troops fight, let’s not forget for one moment the commitment of these young men and women, that carry out those decisions in good faith, that they represent the elected government of our country who in turn represent their voters, it is our national shame that many of these ex-troopers slip through the safety net of our society and end up sleeping on the streets or worst taking their own lives.
Whitehall is a busy place of protest, people from all over the world come to express their grievances in a place where freedom of speech is regarded by them a luxury not a right that many of our indigenous citizens take for granted. This country has a history of fighting those who seek to erode these qualities of freedom, which we see as our birth-right and we continue to fight to protect those rights, yet who protects the protectors if not the people they sacrifice their health and often their lives to defend.
Words pictures David Coomber TheFitz