The Million Masked March

The darkness threw me under a veil of mystery.  I could hear utopian chanting and it was liberating for my tired soul.  There was an endless half seen movement of unsettled people – they were itchy for the prospect of collective demand for change.  The night’s shroud, whilst cloaking our trembling determination could only cover us controversially, like a hijab.  We knew we were unwelcome, unwanted now, a surplus to corporate requirements – without the power of much spending, of the prospects promised by today’s subjugated entrepreneurialism.  We represented the many, the taxed, the impoverished, those pushed like peasants to revolt.  These were the people on the edge, the edge of hardship – of self-abusive sub-cultures.  A virtuosity of the estranged, socially orchestrated and for this evening, a politically engineered abandon.


We moved slowly, my shaky young friend and me, to Trafalgar Square.  It was in the hard cold and early night of winter.  He was slightly worried, as he had not had the fortune to encounter a mask for sale on the way – to disguise his face and emphasize his feelings.  A feeling of malaise at a world dominated by corporate greed, wage robbery and a pre-ordained, restrictive future.  I have no future to fear.  I arrived anticipating retribution, to protest and shame the culture of nepotism that had closed its doors to us, and taken back it’s teasing half-proffered hand of a comfortable stability, and respectability.  This greed, these few, our; huh; so described leaders had demanded that I wore blinkers through my life, or a harness, whilst pulling along the yolk of their profits, their businesses – throughout my adulthood.


No way!  No, no more roads, no more fossil burning destruction, and no more industrial waste.  Their heinous accidental criminal damage to my land, my planet, their machinations to destroy my social groups and our ways of life.  Sustainability knees profitability in the nuts, in my view.  They capped it then, and they cap it now, and will for evermore, should we not answer this call of our time.


The two of us approached a heaving dark mass of souls in a heightened state of tension and excitement.   A group now angry, now laughing and milling between Trafalgar Square’s fountain for colonialism and our National Gallery of shame.  We seemed vast.  We were impressive.  This darkness made us huge, ungovernable – anonymous.  I covered my face with my scarf and pulled my cap low, like the revolutionary workers of the 1920’s.  Those determined people who had offered us freedom, jobs, communities after the destruction of imperial world war, and the previous half century of a collective struggle against poverty, and lack of representation.  A struggle against terrifying living and working conditions.  Put my sons down a mineshaft or in a mill, and I would turn freedom fighter, gladly, any day.

He had been there, at that point, so I read on my return later that night.  I read it from the only reliable news source left to us, the Independent newspaper.  We didn’t see him – it was dark of course – yet Mr Brand had lived true to his views, and recent angry rhetoric seen on a national television political interview.  His emphasis for a desperate need to change, to collect and demand some true representation for the mass of people who dwell in the world.  I heard groups within the group laughing and calling out their appreciation for him.  This national jester had also been overshadowed in the darkness.  No socialist representative from Parliament was here, not like at protests before in the 80’s, 90’s or when Mr Benn graced Occupy.  Tony Benn’s ageing is symbolic with the demise of true social representation in Britain, for people fighting for people.  Yet, now we had Russell, a humble free thinker, and outspoken critic, courageously wielding his salted distaste for modern politicians.


Balcombe’s road protesters stood aside the Frack-Free British and the Badger Liberation Front.  I loved the cries of “water is life”, defying the latest attempts at a corporate conning of the people, as fracking is unfurled across our land.  To think that measly pockets of gas could be ripped from the belly of our lands, our gardens, for our good?  Get real.  Here were the representatives of those who had realised that fracking was a guise for generating share profitability.  The latest stock market hype attempting to stabilize a self-wrecked economy of greed, and to generate bonus bribes and profits for a few individuals around the globe.  I was now in the presence of the few who had woken up to the reality that never is it too late.  Falsities, and promises, stamped with the head of the weak monarchy.  Money, false wealth.  Frack off we don’t need you, we can’t eat money.  We need revolution, fairness – a sustainable future.  Above all we need this planet to live on.


We milled around more.  Our hero, the enemy of the state – the effigy that the crown and government of James I made us burn on bonfires for centuries, was now alive again, multiplied around us.  They didn’t kill his idea.  The cheeky grin, his graceful, cavalier lined beard, and shocked pale face.  Guy Fawkes, our sinister saviour, we hope, was calling us to march to protest, to demand change.  He harangues us with shame for leaving things this long.  For allowing power to be wrenched from the care of the people over the last 30 years.  Glimpses of the beauty of real lives were had as some lifted his mask to take a puff or a swig of some addictive product, that has been spoon fed to us by past colonial trading empires.  Some smoked, some drank, many sang, a few drummed, most chanted, others danced.  We seemed a little confused by our gate-crash, but nonetheless it was time to party in our discontent.


After an hour waiting for more of the many, we eventually began to move, quite slowly.  Speeches went unheard; these had been examined by the police liaison officers – desperate to communicate with a leadership of the bedraggled, independent group.  They wished us to be instructed, and be informed of our movements, or perhaps controlled, in their covert intimidating ways.  That was impossible, this group had no leadership.  Not one of this thousand strong group needed leading.  Their own wills had lead them to this irreligious crusade.  Inside, I shuddered, thinking about the download of the manual of the modern heresy of cyber action.  It sat unused, not understood, loaded with warnings that rashness – like being an untrained swordsman – could see me incarcerated, silenced.  The judgement of our actions has been stolen by the few, the one percent.  Scared, condemning, they are false law makers.


Voices, flags and costumes diverse – this was truly international.  We began to move slowly from the Square.  Fake judges and queens accompanied us in costume, alongside the endless repetitions of the face of our rebellious gracious inspiration in this idea.  This reminded me of the never really encountered dream of Marxism – a globally unified, simultaneous, action.  We came to invert falsity, to go back to uprightness and truth.  Tonight, Guy was going to burn them instead, and cast his bonfire cloak around their government symbols.  This time, for true reason we marched, to…“remember, remember the fifth of November”.  Could we re-enact the…“gunpowder, treason and plot?”  Well, we can plot – in legion.  Under the peaceful flag of anonymous truth, we hugged the cold, and took a stroll.  Neither the selfish traffic, nor the tormented public servants, aka the police, really knew what to do.  So they stopped and waited and let us pass, or darted here and there at random.


The many began a party on these few streets of London.  The silence that the anonymous media had requested was impossible tonight, however, suddenly this contingent of the 99 percent were empowered, and very happy about it.  At last.  Blinding headlights and a wanton rave of flashing blues lights provided a disco scene for our show.  Empty meat wagons lined our path, and the hapless, wealthy commuters stalled in their rush – tonight it would take them more than an hour to get home, they were here for their lesson in raw democratic procedure.  They sat to watch and to learn about this humble, grumbling, group and why we were there – for them, and there is no need to thank us.  None complained then, as we filed down the road; 20 Fawkes wide and well over 2000 Fawkes long.  A crescendo of laughter echoed around this boulevard of broken politics, and irresponsible governance, along Whitehall.  The sounds erupted from the mantles of our minds, a pyrotechnical eruption of freedom and fun, as we scoffed at the gates of Downing Street, crying for our PM to come join us too.  “Who’s Streets?  Our Streets!” rang aloud along the road.  Irony played into my mind as I thought, “Who’s PM?  Our PM!” Yet no.  He isn’t is he, he was not elected, and there was no majority.


Hmm, corruption.  Our police looked on gruffly and confused, quoting different figures into their handsets; surely they were expecting us?  They were slightly amused, and a little afraid, at their loss of crowd control.  Their numbers were many, yet, were they leaderless too?  Or were they like all in this land, slightly peeved at the futility of Parliament?  By now the whole road from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square was a heaving surge of reclaimed land, by bodies.  We stopped outside Westminster, because we wanted to, and waited for the police to catch us up.


We stopped the bus, we held the traffic.  The Streatham bound passengers inside the big red beast laughed at their fate and our endeavours and the party.  The Square itself was too muddy, so we took control of the street instead.  A Fawkes then assailed the front of the bus, anonymously of course; any excuse for a photo-shoot.  He raised a new cry; “who’s bus?  Our bus!”  Even the police had to laugh at this.  They created a shaky perimeter, yet in reality they were busy trying to control the gridlock – can you control gridlock?  Or just leaned against the new insidious awe inspiring iron railing defences, of the Houses of Parliament, erected hastily this year, to restrict access for the people from their chamber of free speech.  We know what you are up to guys!  “Who’s Parliament?” Is it ours?


There was one frustrated copper, a big lump of a person, who got angry then and began hurling the pedestrian barriers around that had been knocked into the road.  He went off ashamed after a few minutes, though, as he was endangering the kids that were with the group – and some women told him off.  The police wagons, by this time, were all trapped in the traffic and the chaos of dancing and drumming.  The lights dazzled in the darkness around the Square, under the loom of Big Ben inside the austerity of Westminster’s tower. She chimed eight times, I remember, we had held the area for two hours by now and the party was in full swing.  A bonfire was lit in the Square and fireworks glittered and whizzed through the sky.  A fire breather defied the law, blazing fuel into the air, this lady was not contravening public order – there is no law against breathing fire in a public place, yet.


Anonymous was peacefully yours.  Representation was given to you that evening outside the Parliament of the UK, for those who cowered inside are unable to do it.  They handed their powers to the markets, banks and media barons years ago.  Children represented you, and their parents, or the youth, and some legal advisors, working for free, to guide some of the more daring actions away from harm.  From the young to the old, a cross section of the country was here in force, unified in their disgust at bad governance.  The youthful were daring, climbing and obscuring the critical stare of Churchill on his plinth, or correcting the actions of that defiant Porsche.  Oh, that Porsche, how naïve of her driver.  The arrogance of the seemingly pretty lady inside, rich and removed from these – the poor.  Fruitlessly, she held her horn and tried, gradually, to mow them down, in her frustration to get nowhere fast.  “Oh, no, no way – they cried”, and she was surrounded by a hundred grinning Fawkes, they held her car, they showed how they had the power to remove her from the road, by sheer human force.  She relented eventually, of course, otherwise that car would have been flipped like one of her many saved coins.   The protesters just wagged their fingers at her, like some erroneous schoolgirl who had been caught in the middle of getting her kicks.  Suddenly, they parted and left her to wait in the gridlock, stuck but with a good view of the events.  A sycophantic fool.


They threatened to kettle us there. So we moved like a sea, washing all over the place.  No one can contain a happy party of discontent, wavering only in space, unaggressive and non-fussed about the police.  Partying people, not party people.  The psychology is so different.  The party people I presumed were hiding in the state funded bars and restaurants in Westminster.  Though, one of their number did come out to join in – and welcomed she was, our Green party leader came down to join in, just briefly.  She remarked on how peaceful it all was, save for the drumming and fun, and commented on the symbolism of the burning of fuel bills that some had lit as a fire to shed some warmth.   No guy would adorn this fire tonight.


Some of our number moved off as it got colder, the foreigners who supported our cause had less resilience for the cold and knew less about our national’ grievances.  The police began to get bolder.  They tried, again, to put the kettle on us.  Fortunately the young are not passive, they had a remarkable idea that made me feel proud.  Our sea broke suddenly like a massive wave on the shore.  The demonstrators seemed to flee, off in the direction of Horse Guards.  We all followed at a pace, and the police looked so peeved.  They were stuck on the other side of the Square, with traffic holding fast to the road, unable therefore to get through with the wagons.


The march quickened along the road, was it a rout?  The emblazoned lines of police could not outflank us at all, we headed at speed for the Mall.  Disbelief was audible in the laughter as we realised where we were heading to now, a mind of one, with nothing spoken, the obvious place to protest next had come.  We headed towards the home of our old monarch.  It was important she knew, after all, of her people’s sufferings and discontent with her government.  I chuckled at the irony of the challenge of an army of Fawkes on the auspicious occasion.  Is it still law all this gunpowder treason and plot, I wondered?  What is the modern equivalent for hanging, drawing and quartering?  Five to ten, perhaps with time off for good behaviour?  Somehow I don’t think so.


The wide route we blocked on our way with the hopeless pedestrian control fences, they left our revolutionary tools out for our enjoyment.  The road was blocked to the cavalry of steel wagons, the police once again had been thwarted.  Tanks would have struggled to get past that mass of steel chaos.  So for a 30 minute spell we were alone in the street, our street, the one outside the queen’s house – free from the oppressors and our joy was so audible.  Not new to protesting, I became worried then, for I knew the police do not like to look stupid, or face reprimand for losing control. 500 plus uniforms made it there quickly, and lined up within a stone’s throw of the Palace.  The home of the false leader, who’s historiography is littered with corruption and shame, and who lays a false claim to this land of ours.  Well, tonight that’s not the case, I shrugged.  The protester came to mind that held the placard outlining in more depth:

“Since 1066 we have been oppressed by a ruling class that had illegally took these lands by invasion – we no longer accept your feudalism”

“Fuck it”, I thought in Anglo – Saxon, I am here to be with history, and Wat Tyler would have been a mate had we lived in corresponding times.  He was ruthlessly duped and slaughtered by the English monarch, a bit like Fawkes.  Oppression, politics, monarchs and religion.  Words of control not on the lips of these masked entertainers.  Occupiers of their own rightful land, for one night at least.


Boom, boom, boom.  It was not gunpowder, the weapon of this siege, but the discordant harmonies of high wattage drum and bass.  We thumped it out below the effigy of that late Empress of India, Queen Victoria.  I bet Liz had not heard this latest sound of British discontent before.  Inspiring, powerful, unlike the hippie demonstrations of old. This was no sit in – this was an illegal rave, to be held right under the noses of the police and outside of the house of the woman who gave them their powers.  “Wake her up!” Fawkes’s cried to the night, and we partied in delight for a few hours.


The police had, by now, caught us up, not without mucking things up again with an impetuous charge down the road full of people, in a big van.  It screeched to a halt, realising its mistake as it mauled down one of the protesters.  He was alright though, he got up to hurl back his grievances towards the palace, the injustice of it all.   The gates were soon lined with more bright police people – too scared to dance at our street party.  They stood there confused, for a few hours, whilst none of us made any advance on the castle.  The very point of them there was not clear, 25 feet high gates are pretty much unassailable, like a long portcullis of an old castle, it would not let us in anyway.  I did watch with some horror as two fireworks hit the building.  A fire, now, would that be classed as treasonable?


No immediate reaction came, the police mingled with us, always refraining to get involved, we joked about how they had been peeved at the cuts they had suffered.  There was a general shock about the firework ballistics.  I remembered my childhood days, running in fear of such incendiaries around the council estates.  Council house had come to Buck House I realised, and laughed at the symbolic nature of these events – they were experiencing the disruptions to the peace like we had to, in continuum.  The noisy parties, gangs of kids and endless whizz bangs of bonfire night.  Then went up the cheer, I wondered if they had come to the balcony like on royal wedding days, but no it was the curtains twitching; again the symbolism of nosey old ladies back home sprang to mind.  Like all parties back home – it got a bit too worked up,  Well, sorry for that, but that’s how it is for us, and we are unsure about all this social decency stuff.  Besides we don’t really like it too much.


The youth were working themselves into a bit of a frenzy, but then you can’t blame them as they have future’s to worry about, whereas I was really here to be disgruntled about a past of lost opportunities in this class ridden state.   Still there had been no call, or reason, for the police to don their ugly blue riot helmets, that was a response only to their shame at leaving their queen so exposed to ridicule.


On the sight of it I recalled the miners disputes, the Poll Tax riots and police brutality of the 1980’s civil unrest.  I, like, half of us, moved away at this stage, there was no point in being intimidated and arrested.  The line advanced, many stayed and a few, in naivety, and in a drunk party state, did hurl a bottle or two.  I am told that they were intimidated though, and there are the reports of arrests after that.  Again, it must be said to be a face saving gesture by the police, there was no real threat to anyone there, these guys were fun.  The police line moved aggressively forwards, afraid of the reprisals of their sergeants in the morning.  Not their fault, really.  They hadn’t expected us.

Jonoboyle All rights reserved reproduction with specific reference, Copyright 2014

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