Yet again I spent a day on a good-natured demonstration consisting of people of all ages, races, religions and shades of political opinion coming together to protest against injustice. And then I went home to watch the TV reporting another event that apparently happened at the same time and place but which I could barely recognise.
I didn’t even recognise the ‘tiny handful of troublemakers’ that always seems to carry the can for turning a demo into a riot. Granted there are some who mistakenly think that doing the windows in at Starbucks will somehow free Palestine or bring Capitalism to it’s knees.
(It always does seem to be Starbucks by the way, although I’m unconvinced that they are worse than any other global brand on the high street that makes obscene profits from third world producers, treats its staff like shit and drives local independent shops out of business. The quality of their coffee alone probably renders them a legitimate if not always appropriate target).
The real troublemakers at the Gaza demo on Saturday were considerably more than a handful and were all too conspicuous on account of their paramilitary uniforms, and their armoury of hardware. They had also effectively engineered the violence in advance by denying permission for a rally in Kensington Gardens that would have taken the crowd away from the flash point of the Israeli embassy. And so when the demo inevitably became stuck by the embassy, these troublemakers sealed off escape routs down the side streets creating a claustrophobic bottle-neck of pissed-off and panicky protesters.
In such circumstances the same good-natured protesters are rapidly transformed in to an angry mob. Even the most mild mannered individual is inclined to lash out at bullying figures flouting arbitrary authority, and engage in a one-sided battle with a superior force that they know they cannot ultimately hope to beat.
It’s the reason why kids throughout the world will throw stones at tanks. And dare I say it; in a very very small way and for a only few brief moments, it is a taste of why people in Gaza may be inclined to fight back against a brutal army of occupation.