I marched for the alternative. Sort of. I added my voice to the very many. How many exactly? A few thousand, over a million – who knows? I’ll go with the higher number, just based on what I saw.
I marched for the alternative, and was very glad I did. It was a wonderful feeling – the one time that maybe, that silly political slogan of being ‘all in it together’ actually seemed like a reality. Stupid o’clock for a Saturday morning (or 9am to be precise) I headed to the train station and struggled with the first flight of steps of the day. On the platform stood a small woman with a giant furled banner, and that’s where the excitement started to mount. I don’t do soccer, but maybe that’s what brings sports fans together – that ability to look down a railway platform and see a comrade – someone that can be spotted on sight. I felt an overwhelming urge, so unlike my normal self, to go and chat to my fellow marcher, but was just a bit to proper for that at 9am.
Struggling through the interchanges on the underground – seeking out the routes with step free access, I shared lifts with 2 families of mums-and-kids all heading the same way. Children proudly sporting their parents union badges, with whistles round their necks. The kids I did wish good luck too.
On route to Soho square I saw my first group of pink and black clad people – no one I recognised, but wearing the distinctive colours choses to signify those marching with the Queer Resistance block. With an extra skip and jump, I arrived at the park, to join the general gathering. It felt like a little party – the mood was, perhaps, slightly nervous, but dominated by friendliness and joviality. Chatting to friends old and new, with a quick detour to Starbucks to use the loo. 130 people turned out to Soho square, and the effort that was made in general to wear the designated pink was just amazing. We looked great, we sounded great.
At about 11 we headed on to meet up with the other LGBT blocs at Charring Cross. I struggled along on my crutches, enjoying the easy pace of the walk and the wonderful cheerful company. Huge rainbow flags greeted us as we arrived where another 30 or so LGBT protesters had gathered to join the rally. Finally we headed off to merge with the main rally on embankment. The route was slightly chaotic. I couldn’t help wondering if the police had not been told the march was going to happen. We closed roads by force of numbers as we walked, but there was no barricades – most of the bus drivers seemed happy to let us pass, one lone car driver got quite irate and tried to turn a corner as perhaps 1000 people (us and at least one other feeder march) walked down a footpath and an inside lane of the road.
The closer we got to the main rally point the larger the crowd got. Long before I had expected we were many. People were everywhere, people with joy and anger, voices raided in chants and songs, proud banners raised high. Banners of every description were held up with pride. Most of those near us were education focused, which made me feel particularly at home. The London School of Economics UCU branch were directly behind us, and a primary education group with excellently executed placards were in front. By that point I began to stagger and fall quite a bit and realised that my plan to just go to the beginning of the march was perhaps misplaced. Here I was, caught up in the very centre of things, having walked too far already, and not yet there.
A long slow walk around the corner, filled with singing, dancing, drumming, and finally we were, technically, on embankment, at last. By that point I could no longer manage at all. 2 men came up, and assisted me to the side – they could see that there was a little park to the side of where we were. After a lengthy sit-down I was able to get to my feet again, and head the next few steps to embankment station. A very grumpy police officer was shuttering the entrance and not allowing any one else in – I’ve no idea why, people were still streaming out the other side. I fell on the steps, and looked up at him a bit helplessly. ‘I’ve got to get home now’ I said to him, I can’t walk any further. He slid open the shutters wide enough to let through a mother with a small child, and came down and basically carried me up the steps (I still do not understand why no one else was being let in. No one else really wanted in, anyway)
However, that was my March. It ended by me being helped through embankment station by 2 police officers and 3 Transport for London staff who did everything they could to help, and then some. It actually got a bit embarrassing as my muscular disease responds well to rest, so by the time I’d sat on the tube for 20 minutes I could stand again, with the crutches anyway – but because the police had officially asked TfL for help getting me home, they rang ahead to every station on my slightly convoluted route, and someone was there to meet me and get me onto the next part of my journey.
All I’d planned to do was see the march off, and in the end, that’s exactly what I did, leaving at the start, but somehow I left the house at 9am and didn’t get home until about 3. I had notions of going back to meet the others again at the 6.30 meet up at Hyde Park, but my body had other ideas and I spend the rest of the day in bed.
It was physically hard, and left me sicker than usual for the next few days, but worth every second, and I only wish I could have stayed around longer, maybe gone on to Fortune and Masons.