In an age where there’s plenty to demonstrate about, it seems the age-old art of the protest march is alive and kicking. From council cuts to women’s rights, Brexit and Trump, people are mobilising. Whether you believe it makes a difference or not, there’s no doubt it sparks debate and highlights our democratic rights to be heard. NQ’s Hilary Scott and Jed Scoles detail their experience of the Trump protest in London this summer…
Hilary: Is there any point in taking to the streets?
As the children of two journalists, with news channels constantly on in the background through their formative years, maybe it was inevitable that our four kids would end up interested in politics.
When it was announced that Trump, fresh from stamping and wrecking his way across society, was to be invited to the UK, it was also inevitable that there would be protests.
And that our card-carrying, socialist first-born, Jed, would want to be part of it.
To be frank, I’d never been convinced that protesting, even on a large, physical scale, has been successful. I was a child in the1970s and ‘80s, watching mass protests at their peak.
I saw the miners get crushed by the state, the Greenham Common women dragged around by police. Wapping, CND, the Poll Tax, the Newbury Bypass; all these mass movements of people ultimately ignored and belittled by the state and the wider, apathetic population.
I’d admired the protesters, but apart from accidentally drifting into a poll tax march in the last century, I was gifted with a job as a journalist that allowed me to be impartial.
But Trump is something else. It’s no exaggeration to say that what his administration is doing is redolent of previous dictatorships.
OK, so we knew the protest wouldn’t stop him coming, and that he’d never be allowed anywhere near it, but nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore a quarter of a million people waving (often hilarious) placards telling you to bog off. On the train down, we sat opposite a pensioner couple, Barbara and Don from Wolverhampton.
At first glance, especially when they opened their Tupperware packed sandwiches, they looked like a couple on a day trip. Then they heard us talking and revealed they were veteran campaigners, part of a large group meeting up at the march.
And as we walked towards the start at Portland Place, outside the locked-down BBC, we could see that EVERYONE was represented on this march, from babes in arms to pensioners in mobility scooters.
The veterans had got it right, you should bring your own food, as it felt wrong to nip into Pret a Manger enroute. It was blazingly hot, so water bottles and a friend’s umbrella came in handy as we sought shade while waiting for over an hour at the start.
Suspiciously, there was absolutely no mobile signal, so no way of using social media and when Jed and Jemima disappeared to find the front of the march, there was no way of messaging either. Still, maybe rebellion isn’t the same with your mum in tow.
We managed to find each other hours later at Trafalgar Square, as the young’ uns found a wifi signal at a pub. We listened to the speeches, saw Corbyn escorted away by a dozen police and several more on horseback. But the whole day was peaceful, and uplifting and ultimately felt like we were part of something big – making a point, making a noise.
Plus, an extra middle-class bonus: I smashed my fitbit stepcount record . . .
NQ Hilary Scott
Jed: Your mum makes you do stuff
I’d been planning to go to the Stop Trump demo for some time, by planning I mean saying I’m attending the event on Facebook and by a long time I mean about a fortnight.
However, like a true armchair socialist, it got to the morning of the march and I was debating if it was worth the train fare to London, the probable heatstroke or the possible kettling.
Mum walked in and asked me what I was up to (mothers can smell inactivity like sharks can smell blood in water). I explained my quasi dilemma and she was not impressed.
“Why aren’t you going?!”
I didn’t really have a good answer so tried: “Well… why aren’t you going either?” Mum didn’t really have a good answer, something about jiggling work, being an impartial journalist (ie, being middle aged and just doing your activism from a semi permanent sedentary position).
Fast forward an hour and a half, both mother dearest and myself were on the next train to Euston. By this point we were both quite excited.
“I haven’t been to a protest since the 80s or 90s. . . Poll tax. . . THATCHER! . . . do you think the boys have remembered to move the washing to the tumble drier?” was the general stream of consciousness that was tumbling from my mother’s mouth. I began to suspect that the radical had become a mother rather than the other way round.
Once at Euston we were to march on Portland Place, along the way we’d collected my friend from university, Jemima, and unexpectedly bumped into two of Mum’s colleagues.
It was incredibly hot and London seemed to have a carnival atmosphere about it. As we walked towards the BBC we realised that the pavement was becoming fuller with people holding placards, wearing face paint and dressed in Hogwarts uniforms (it seems white people can’t protest without making a Harry Potter reference).
I also realised there was a change in Mum, a glint in her eye, a spring in her step, and for a second I saw the woman she was before me and my siblings had come along, kicked the door down and robbed her of time, sleep and money.
The march was a carnival of music, colour and resistance. The old, the young, mothers and fathers with children, students, professionals, all marched to show an American horror show what we thought of him on Friday the 13th.
The reality is I don’t think my mother’s’ disruptive streak had ever truly left her but rather it got packed away tightly into a box, to be stored in the loft between a bag of old bedding and a crate of unopened camping gear.
But for one day, the old radical was to march alongside the new radical and if you were to be watching on you wouldn’t have been able to tell between the two.
NQ Jed Scoles