Not Saussure

December 21, 2006

A cold coming they had of it, Just the worst time of year

Filed under: civil liberties, UK — notsaussure @ 10:19 pm

From The Netherworld, a report and pictures of yesterday’s ‘Lone Mass Demonstration’ and illegal carol service outside Parliament in weather conditions upon which everyone comments. Bloggers seem to have been well-represented, among them, of course, Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads, who organised the event. Rachel was there, as was D-Notice.

The Disillusioned Kid provides a useful run-down of the background to the protest and its various manifestations during the year.

Rabbit Strike hung around interminably last week to obtain her permit to protest, as did Rachel — and I heartily commend, again, both their darkly comic accounts of this, not least for the insights they provide into what it can be like for anyone who has to have non-urgent dealings with the police) and made good use of her permit, mounting a demonstration that will have infuriated greengrocer’s everywhere and writing a very insightful account of the event:

I have limited experience of demonstrating, and so am irksomely analytical about it, but one of the distinctive things about a demonstration like this is how blooming jolly it is. Jolly and very British – peaceful but not po-faced, a bit daffy without ever losing the sense of enormous importance. This sort of humble gaggle milling about under the looming, gorgeous, other-gold-looks-like-Ferrero-Rocher-wrappers-next-to-this opulence of Parliament. Parliament is an absolutely intimidating place, representing power in one of the most effective, criticism-rebuffing ways you can imagine. You feel very small next to it, and obvious as it is to say, your voice and presence as a defiant citizen in the face of such an impassive and significance-fraught structure feel infinitesimal.

I’d never really appreciated that before; to my shame, when I read that about it being an intimidating place, I wondered what she was on about. Then I realised that, of course, whenever I’ve been there it’s been on business so I’ve just swept up in a taxi, past the queuing throngs, given my name to police on the door, and been ushered through.

Since my very temporary access to the place, as a guest of various hon members, made me forget how intimidating and impassive it can otherwise appear, I can hardly imagine the effect on those it has on those who spend all their time there. Not unlike, I think, that vital feature of Eighteen Century landscape gardening, the ha-ha, which provides a very effective and visible barrier to those outside but is completely invisible to those inside the park and allows them to enjoy the illusion that there exists no barrier between the private enclosure and the common lands without.

One of my few regrets about not living in London any more is that it’s now difficult for me to get to such events; I will make it my new year’s resolution to get to at least one of them in 2007, because it is important to keep on marking the absurdity of having to ask permission peacefully to demonstrate outside Parliament.

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