Like 499,999 other people, I went on the March for the Alternative on Saturday. I don’t have any exciting stories to tell about it, but perhaps that’s worth saying in itself. I went with my family – including my children – and friends, including Choler, and it felt good.
I’d been dithering about whether to go all week. What if I got kettled? Should I take the children? (I suspected that taking my seven-year-old daughter into crowded central London might result in her escaping our clutches and joining some kind of inner-city street circus). Was I missing some important reason why the government’s cuts and changes were ok really? What if there really wasn’t an alternative? Or even if there was, would marching achieve anything? I’d read articles saying it never made any difference. And the UK isn’t Libya or Egypt: we aren’t living under an oppressive dictatorship; we have democracy; shouldn’t I just be grateful things weren’t worse?
In the end, it wasn’t hard to decide to go. I still feared kettling, but I knew the point of kettles was to discourage people from marching, so that was in itself a good reason to march. And as for my other concerns: well, I really don’t have anything to say about government policies that isn’t covered better elsewhere, so I’m just going to link to the letter I sent to my MP, Paul Burstow, for a summary of the things I’m worried about. I really don’t want to live in a country where disabled people are either viewed as impossible burdens or assumed to be fraudsters, or expected to get jobs when it’s hard enough to get work if you don’t need adjustments made. Or in a country where free state-run healthcare is something the government appears to be idealogically opposed to. Amongst other things.
Anyway, so we met in the pub and marched along the river as far as Westminster, where those of us with kids peeled off to give them food and avoid the biggest crowds. We were at the back of the march and the atmosphere was cheerful in a mass-protest kind of way. Our daughter blew a whistle and waved a Fire Brigade banner she’d found (and didn’t try to escape), our baby slept happily through it all, and we enjoyed being part of such a massive event.
My sole encounter with the police was with a very lovely policeman who helped me get the pushchair up several flights of staris when I got trapped between the river, the march and a closed tube station. He gets extra points for addressing me as ‘mate’ rather than ‘ma’am’ and not making any cracks about the fact that I was wearing my ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ teeshirt. (Obviously there’s no actual contradiction between being a feminist and needing someone to help you get a pushchair up steps, but people can be annoying.)
Like voting, one person marching doesn’t make much difference in itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.