I lived in a town relatively untouched by political activism, I responded to a flyer about the Anti Nazi League and through that met a handful of people in the last part of 2002. We decided to go on the march in Feb. Some of them were members of the SWP but the group was never anything defined politically just a meeting of people who dissented and wanted to be with others who did too.
On the 15th when we arrived in London we saw all the coaches and the numbers on the coaches and where they were from, I remember seeing number 19 on a Sheffield coach and thinking Christ, if that’s how many have come down from there alone this is huge, this is unprecedented, we’ve actually got the numbers that we dreamed were out there.
We stood on Gower St for I don’t know how long, we barely moved for hours. By the time we got to Hyde Park all the speakers had long since packed up and gone home, yet there were many many thousands behind us. It was literally like marching with the whole population, there were songs and chants but the whole level of ambient noise of that many people meant there almost didn’t need to be anything else. It was the antithesis of Metropolis, people marched doggedly against what it was they were supposed to be marching towards.
It was the most empowered I have ever felt.
In the aftermath when they went into Iraq anyway I felt deflated but I spoke a few months later to a Professor of Chemistry from Cairo University and he said to me not to be downhearted, the message of this march was global and inexorable. That whilst they were on the streets in the Middle East too they were being told by their friends how many were marching in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona and they realised that this was not the governments of the West representing their people in warfare, the people did not vote for war, they did not want war.
And he said that all of our strength stopped the US going into Syria as it had surely wanted to do. These words still chill me now.