Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day Madness

Shame on me for choosing to work on May Day, the holy grail of all workers' bank holidays. Mercifully it was just for the morning, and by 1.00, with everything published, we were given the all-clear to head home. I decided to head over to Clerkenwell Green first, and watch the unions start their annual march on Trafalgar Square.

As these things tend to be, it was populated by a mix of the right-on and the rather creepy. I gave a hearty cheer as the NUJ delegation went by (well okay, I clapped; there were only about three other people around), and was even more pleased to see a group of Gate Gourmet workers, allied with the T&G. The last I heard was that the majority of them had accepted a voluntary redundancy package from Gate Gourmet under an eleventh-hour deal last September. Some stayed on at the firm, but the rest were given "compulsory redundancy". Over half a year later, it is encouraging to see that these few remain undaunted by adversity and continue to fight for workers' rights.


Sticking with the demo, let me throw out a question to all you readers: am I the only one who still finds protest marches to be, well, quite moving? Don't get me wrong, I'm enough of a realist to know that most demos in the capital these days tend not to result in much (if any) concrete action being taken by those in power. But at the same time, I don't know... I've never considered myself to be an overly emotional or naive person, but there's something about seeing a huge crowd of people from different walks of life uniting to march and voice their frustration or opposition that just gets me every time. And when they bring out the kids! Banging the drums! Always a killer. The cynic in me screams out "there they go, like lambs to the slaughter," but the inane optimist beams that there's hope for humanity yet.

As a journalist it's mortifying to have to brush away a tear while running alongside a protest march with a microphone, but I'll admit to it having happened at least once. It's absolutely horrible and totally uncool, and I dread the reaction that I'm going to get from even admitting this publicly, but I'm hoping I'm not the only one big enough to own up to it! Still, the early signs don't look good; I tried explaining all this to my boyfriend earlier today, and his considered reply was "You sound like an Orangeman." Eeeek.

Any other hacks ever find themselves getting caught up in the heat of the moment while on assignment? Be interesting to hear your experiences. We're not machines, after all! Journalists have feelings, too. :)

UPDATE: Gene at Harry's Place highlights the case of protesters who had a much harder time of things on May Day, and whose courage in marching is therefore about a million times more moving that anything I saw yesterday.


At May 04, 2006 4:42 pm, Anonymous declan said...

I find most marches now have little or no impact on me at all.
In 1994 the first nationalist march to be allowed to Belfast City Hall was pretty special.
But having seen more marches/demos/parades than most, I've eventually discovered how utterly formulaic they are.
Leftie marches are particularly guilty of this given the cadre of 'professional demonstrators' (i.e. Trots and chums) who make marching, bellowing cliches through megaphones as a substitute for meaningful political action.
Even worse are the ridiculous punk/hippie drum-beating, face-paint brigade who turn up like a rent-a-mob to any pseudo-left-ish cause going.

I even stopped going to May Day marches years ago. Call it cynicism if you will. I prefer to feel a sense of achievement in political action - by actually winning something.

Marches/demos feel more like a whingefest masquerading as positive action.

At May 04, 2006 4:44 pm, Anonymous declan said...

Actually, I'll clarify that.

Good march: the illegal immigrants' day of action in America recently.

Bad march: SWP/RESPECT/Islamists marching to **ahem** "Stop The War".

At May 05, 2006 2:14 pm, Blogger Lady M said...

Even worse are the ridiculous punk/hippie drum-beating, face-paint brigade who turn up like a rent-a-mob to any pseudo-left-ish cause going.

I totally agree with you on that one, but that's what I liked about this particular march. Yes, there were one or two groups of the above-mentioned drum-beating Stoppers. But the vast majority of those onvolved in this particular march (going purely on what I saw, here) seemed to be ordinary working-class people trying to raise awareness of workers' right and equality. Given that union membership has dropped dramatically in the UK over the past 20 years or so, I'd say that was something worth supporting, wouldn't you?

At May 05, 2006 4:46 pm, Anonymous declan said...

Didn't say it wasn't. I just don't get emotional about creaky old May Day TUC marches.

At May 05, 2006 5:17 pm, Blogger Lady M said...

I must aspire to emulate your hard-nosed cynicism more often. ;-)


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