WE ALL LIKE TO COMPLAIN and if really aggrieved, protest to make our point, or to change the world. But for having protesters with the greatest tenacity, London would appear to lead the way, we have of course our regular Saturday weekend protesters, who spend their week in comfortable City jobs, or living off the State and who like to spend their weekends walking around London with a banner.
Taking those aside, an entrepreneurial spirit has at times been commendable with some individuals. Stanley Green who upon retirement decided against taking up golf, but chose to spend 30 years warning of the dangers of protein.
He started in Harrow on Saturdays, arriving from his Northolt home by bike resplendent with his sandwich board. Today marks the 50th anniversary when he decided to travel to Oxford Street, where he could find many potential converts. Here he campaigned every day for most of his life except, of course, the Sabbath.
Cycling from home for two hours each way he bought a packed lunch which he prepared over a bunsen burner at home and ate at a “warm and secret place” near Oxford Street. There are not many of those nowadays in this shopping metropolis.
‘Protein makes passion’ his printed leaflets exclaimed, so reduce your consumption of fish, bird, meat, cheese, egg, peas, beans, nuts and well err . . . sitting, and the world will be a happier place.
Or take the charming chap with a loud megaphone who would extol the benefits of Christianity at Oxford Circus greatly improving the ambience of the area until he had an anti-social behaviour order served, forcing him to relocate to Piccadilly Circus. Then every evening illuminated by the neon signs revellers could hear him chastising them, until that is, a second ASBO was served preventing him from loudly proclaiming his faith.
A third lone individual protested for over 15 years outside White’s Club in St. James’ Street resplendent dressed in a gold jacket and gold shoes. He divided his time between a certain Lord of the Realm’s club, who he claims has ruined his business and Buckingham Palace around the corner. He blames Her Majesty for not supporting his all-time one-man crusade but boasts proudly that once he saw the Queen watching him from behind her net curtains.
For a far more spiritual demo, go to Portland Place, there opposite the Chinese Embassy since June 2002, protesting against an oppressive regime, sympathisers of Falun Gong practise Tai Chi, 24 hours a day, commendable but utterly fruitless, since China hardly feels threatened by the slow movements of the protesters. But of course if you want free Tai Chi lessons I can recommend the pavement outside RIBA.
But my all time favourite for endurance and cocking a snoop at authority has to be Brian Haw, who on 2 June 2001 decided to begin camping in Parliament Square in a one-man political protest against war and foreign policy. Unfortunately for Brian, the second Iraq war overtook events making him a cause célèbre and preventing him from ever giving up his, protest against the forces of the State. Westminster City Council then failed in their prosecution against Brian for causing an obstruction on the pavement, later his continuous use of a megaphone led to objections by Members of Parliament. Then in a glorious twist, a House of Commons Procedure Committee recommended that the law is changed to prohibit his protest as his camp could provide an opportunity for terrorists to disguise explosive devices. The Government then passed a provision to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act banning all unlicensed protests, permanent or otherwise, however, because Brian’s protest was on-going and residing on Parliament Square prior to the enactment of the Act, it was unclear whether the Act applied to him.
At the 2007 Channel 4 Political Awards, he was voted Most Inspiring Political Figure. Haw died of cancer in June 2011.
It would seem we are now a long way away from the days of Stanley Green and his protein protest.
A version of this post was published by CabbieBlog on 12th January 2010