There follows a guest post by James Delingpole, the Executive Editor of Breitbart London.
I don’t know how many people went on the Freedom March through London at the weekend, but it was definitely a lot more than the “hundreds” initially reported by the BBC and Sky [did they get Neil Ferguson to do their arithmetic?], and probably ran into the tens of thousands.
We gathered beforehand in small ‘bubble’-like groups in Hyde Park and tried to avoid the attentions of the large numbers of police who were trying to find an excuse to disperse us or arrest us. Someone said it felt like being in Occupied Europe during the war. Everyone was slightly tense, keyed up, knowing that the police have shown themselves to be much more brutal and unforgiving towards anti-lockdown protestors than they are with, say, Black Lives Matter or Extinction Rebellion mobs.
At a pre-arranged smoke signal – everything was organised on Telegram and announced at the last minute so as to keep the police guessing – we began to coalesce and marched out of the Marble Arch entrance, up Park Lane then right down Oxford Street.
It was, as always at these events, a good natured crowd. Only a minority, I’m guessing, had been ruined by a university education. These were people that we’d call ‘salt of the earth’ and Hillary Clinton would call ‘Deplorables’. There was a great deal more racial diversity than you’d find at a BLM or an XR rally.
As we weaved through the traffic on Park Lane which had been brought to a standstill I expected hostility from the trapped drivers. What we got, though, was solidarity – especially from the bus drivers. They beeped their horns and accepted fist bumps and flowers through the windows.
I joined London Mayoral candidate Laurence Fox, leader of the Reclaim Party, who got a lot of love from the crowd for his pro-freedom, anti-lockdown, open-up-London-immediately campaign ticket. We snaked with the long conga line the length of Oxford Street heading for Holborn, acutely conscious that any moment the Territorial Support Group vans circling us like hungry wolves could close off the side-streets and kettle us in for hours in order to inflict torture by boredom, claustrophobia and bursting bladder.
On this occasion, however, the police were mostly restrained. Some said it was because the crowd was simply too large to confront; others that the police were taking a softly-softly approach after criticisms that they had been too harsh at the previous weekend’s vigil for Sarah Everard. My own suspicion is that they would have welcomed some aggro in order to discredit the anti-lockdown cause (as the state is very keen to do) but that in the event they opted for the next best thing: denying it the oxygen of publicity.
The compliant media certainly helped here. How often do tens of thousands of people march through London’s main thoroughfares on a Saturday with barely a mention in the Sunday papers? I remember, for example, last year most of the Sundays devoting double-page spreads to the Black Lives Matter march – with huge photographs and swooning copy. But this march – in support of a far less politically tainted cause: quite simply an affirmation of people’s right to work and play free of government oppression – was ignored. Sad.
Stop Press: Read Laura Dodsworth’s account of being on the demo for Spiked.