Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Protest scenes that have left Benghazi in the shade

From the way the news has been since Saturday, I expect this week's episode of Gardeners' Question Time to go: "Before answering the question about Mister Dibley's crocus, do the panel condemn the violence we saw in Oxford Street? Well come on, do you? Do You?"

By tomorrow, the Shipping Forecast will go: "Rockall, gales, South-Westerly, Oxford Street, paint, hurled at windows, force nine, shocking, sickening, I condemn, utterly."

This would make more sense than the interview on Newsnight with a woman from UK Uncut, who was asked if she condemned the violence.

She said she couldn't speak for UK Uncut as a whole, as she was an artist who liked to create spaces of thoughts opposing the cuts, so she was asked the same question five more times.

Or there was the reporter on the day of the march who gasped about shocking scenes, including "people running down the street".

I hope he doesn't watch coverage of the London Marathon or he'll hide under the bed convinced it's an armed uprising.

I saw quite a bit of the march and it seemed to be full of singing and cheering and drumming, but obviously I was lucky and missed the bit where people gave out leaflets saying, "The only way forward for this movement is to make children cry."

Then there was the barbarity of occupying Fortnum -amp; Mason. Luckily there was a BBC reporter in the middle of it, who could bravely relay the events.

Asked how the occupation was affecting shoppers, she said: "Customers are taking pictures and looking a bit bemused."

"Has there been any damage to property?" she was asked. She replied: "There is a banner that's been placed in front of a wedding cake, saying 'Closed by UK Uncut'."

You can't help but feel there's an element of snobbery in the outrage, as there probably wouldn't be as much fuss if protesters occupied a pound shop in Rotherham, with 138 arrests and a shopkeeper quoted as saying: "My main fear was for the dishcloths."

For the hundreds of thousands who were there, all this will probably have little bearing on how they saw the day, because this was very much a trade union demonstration.

It was largely made up of people who then returned to work - people whose spirits were lifted by the sense that they are not on their own in opposing the cuts, but rather they are part of a huge and implacable crowd.

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