Thinking allowed — 12 January 2010

We all like to complain and if really aggrieved, protest to make our point, in fact sometimes it seems that CabbieBlog’s raison d’etre is to whinge about all things in London.

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.

Stanley_Green,_Oxford_Street,_1977 Taking those aside, an entrepreneurial spirit has at times been commendable with some individuals, for example Stanley Green who upon retirement from the civil service decided against taking up golf, but chose to spend 30 years warning of the dangers of protein. ‘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 can still be found, after over 15 years outside White’s Club in St. James’ Street resplendent dressed in a gold jacket and gold shoes. He divides 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 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 CabbieBlog recommends 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 one man 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 be 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. He now is in the position that he simply cannot give up his camp site as only he is allowed to protest in Britain any more without a licence.

It would seem we are now a long way away from the days of Stanley Green and his protein protest.

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Gibson

(3) Readers Comments

  1. Nor in mine!

  2. Group protesters may make some impact but the lone protester has his work cut out because the public’s initial reaction is that he is a nutter. There is, of course, a perfectly good reason for this: most lone protesters are nutters. Brian Haw, I think, has achieved a special niche: drivers toot their horns as they go past, tourists take photos of him but no one much actually joins in the protest.

    Street evangelists are in a different class. They definitely are nutters or at least monomaniacs. They annoy me with their assumption that they alone possess a truth that will save the world but on a good day, they amuse me too. They do have a use, though: they bring religion into disrepute.

    I attended Tai Chi lessons once. It was originally developed as a martial art and when practised as such is viciously effective. It’s also harder to master (even in the gentle form) than might at first sight appear. Damn clever, those Chinese (to quote the Goon Show).

    • As much as we might enjoy the lone protestor, with religious zealots providing both entertainment and humour, it cannot be right that the Government has banned unauthorised protest in many areas of central London

What do you have to say for yourself?