Thursday, April 02, 2009

It's been incredibly noisy today. Not that I minded initially. I like being in a city where people have the right to protest, and will actually act on that desire, although I also feel that if people need to protest, they should offer a constructive solution or at least attempt to point us to some kind of resolution. Otherwise it's not protesting, it's just complaining on a grand scale.

This being the first major protest during my stay in London thus far, even counting my university days where I took part briefly in the May Day protests (because they happened to be walking in the same direction as I was for about a minute or two), I decided that, given my appointment schedule for the day pretty much took me through every possible protest site all the way from the City to Mayfair via Trafalgar Square, I might as well take full advantage of it and see the crowds for myself. I mean, I'd been hearing the sounds of helicopters hovering around the city the entire morning, and had definitely noticed an increase in the frequency of sirens, but, hey, I didn't look like a banker, and, although I can't dress down to the extent that I'd look like a protester, I could pass off as a tourist, right?

Nature doesn't do bail-outs (protesters along Bishopsgate)

Well, apart from the fact that a tourist wouldn't be snapping photos on a Blackberry, that was pretty much correct.

Not that it bothered me too much. Honestly, I was just as tempted to join in the protests given that I'd lost my job even though this whole affair had nothing to do with me. I can and do sympathise with their anger, the only difference being that I really do not want any more businesses to lose any more money by having their daily routine disrupted because I want a job, dammit!

Protesters at the Royal Exchange

For the most part, I thought the protesters seemed fairly peaceful and orderly, although my view changed somewhat when I was confronted by the sight of a convoy of 15 police vans and cars zooming by me, headed towards the Bank of England some time around 2.30 pm. A man ahead of me took out his phone to film the convoy and reported that the speeding vehicles had taken close to a minute to pass by us.

Convoy of police vehicles

The protest taking place at Trafalgar Square seemed pretty much like a protest you'd see in the US in the '60s or '70s, or so I imagine. A woman was onstage, singing Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the Wind, the song which seems to be a classic hippie protest song, which pretty much marked out which groups were protesting over at this end (the environmentalists, as opposed to the anti-banker movement in the City).

Alas, the protesters weren't as orderly as I thought them to be: the anti-bankers had stormed a branch of RBS, breaking windows and computers, and, in an unrelated incident, a protester had collapsed and died near the Bank of England in the evening. Moreover, half of Bishopsgate was cordoned off by the police (in full riot gear), with several police helicopters still patrolling the skies at 11 pm.

Police in riot gear

Today wasn't even the main day of protests, as it turned out. It's supposed to come to a climax tomorrow. Ah well, it's another day in which I'll be out and about. I need to figure out what to do with my ISA allowance for 2008/2009 before Sunday, and I'm taking part in a chocolate tasting event in the evening (courtesy of The Guardian [via Choc Star's twitter]) ahead of London's first chocolate festival on Friday.

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