A Very Privileged Protest
Britain’s worst are gathered in Hyde Park protesting the lock down. The event was organised by UK Freedom Movement, but activists quickly revealed that the company was registered at the address of former Britain First leader, Jayda Fransen. The right wing have convinced enough working class voters that they don’t need the EU, the NHS or anything that socialism has to offer. Now they’ve moved on to persuading them they don’t need to worry about Coronavirus. Because who else is going to get them back on the bus to work on Monday morning? Well okay, there’s Andrew Adonis, who wakes every morning to demand we sacrifice our kids to the Corona Gods. But they aren’t going to listen to a Baron are they?
Jayda has distanced herself from the event, but is just one of the right-wing voices who’ve spent lock down completing the job they started on the working class. Tommy Robinson’s been looking for Muslims flouting the lock down and harassing police officers carrying out traffic duties. Katie Hopkins has overdosed on Steve Bannon and Alex Jones and is spouting three textures of American flavoured shit. And old Nick Griffin wants to use the pandemic as an opportunity for outreach work that could “give people faith in their fellow whites.” I think even Nick might agree, working class people will need a little more convincing than the shit show in Hyde Park today.
It’s the poshest protest I’ve ever seen. A summer fete on steroids. The police are dressed for a carnival beat. Relaxed in the short sleeves, not a stitch of PPE between them as they walk inches from shouting protesters. I spy a lot of expensive outdoor wear. Hear the lamented wails of middle-class folk who’ve never been to a protest before. They sound like the audience at a Punch and Judy show. There’s a few Union Jack flags around but I can’t spot any working-class gammon. These aren’t just any right wingers. These are Mmmm… probably best I don’t go there.
The newbies take their lead from veteran conspiracy theorists. Weak plummy voices cry, “you’re the real virus,” as an accordion plays a carnival tune. I realise I’ve been frowning for five whole minutes trying to figure out the latest instalment of wtf. I’m working on coming out of the pandemic without puzzled frown lines. I turn my attention to looking for a little colour in the sea of faces but it’s all white, suburban types and boy do they know it.
“Kill Bill Gates.” A middle-aged white woman screams. The crowd join in, raising placards with Bill’s face on, adding a touch of creepiness to an already surreal scene. They don’t want his vaccine. Cool. Gates’ well documented obsession with population control and vaccines isn’t for me either. But I’m not about to share Covid infused air and control the population for him. Quite a few people are wearing masks but there’s no attempt to social distance. Every officer present is at risk of infection and I’m mesmerised by their fearlessness and not in a good way. Like, how the fuck are these white people getting away with this shit? I imagine the protesters heading home later, full of self-satisfaction and virus.
The most annoying man in the world has a megaphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I think you’re all taking this too seriously.” He booms. People seem to know who he is, the police have an eye on him too as they mill about talking to protesters who’ve grouped too close together. Which is everyone, as they point out when confronted. “You’re contravening Lizzy’s laws.” A male voice shouts, announcing the presence of the Freemen of the land. I groan. They’re all there. Except for the people the far-right really wanted to entice out of their lock downs.
They’re an eclectic mix. Bonded only by whiteness and their objection to the lock down. I can’t see anyone who looks like they’ll be forced onto a crowded bus on Monday morning, to make their way to a low paid job. The privilege is palpable. “This man is harassing me again, the police officer is harassing me.” A theatrical male voice crows. The protesters rush to surround him chanting “Freedom.” The accordion strikes up again.
Another protester in a blue coat is refusing to move on. Confident in the protection of the crowd, he goads the police officers in front of him. “Are you going to arrest me?” He mocks loudly. “Yes. Yes we are.” The officer nods. All hell breaks loose as the crowd rush to protect him. But these protesters have never even fought their way onto a crowded bus. Back up appears in a flash and the crowd, not really about that life, back off sheepishly as blue coat guy is led away. Annoying megaphone guy pipes up again. It feels staged, even the police seem thrown off balance by the strange atmosphere.
There’s no anger. The people here have been mildly inconvenienced by the pandemic. Having to pop the champagne cos there’s no wine in the fridge type people. The spirit of the oppressed is nowhere to be found. They wanted the white working classes down there protesting their disappearing freedoms. Demanding an end to the lock down to fulfil their thwarted herd immunity plan.
The Conservatives never gave up on their plan to put the economy above lives, they’re just trying to make working class people think it was their own idea. Calling NHS workers heroes. Giving carers a badge. Renaming ‘unskilled workers,’ essential workers and labelling teachers lazy cowards. Those that weren’t persuaded would surely be convinced by their more brazen right-wing friends like Fransen, Farage and Griffin.
It didn’t work today. The main attraction stayed home, slowly waking up to the realisation that the people who promised them their country back, couldn’t give two fucks about them or their gran. Appeals to ‘Go easy on Boris’ have fallen silent. Only the Twitter bots are left to remind them that he faces a tough job. It’s not enough to cover up the devastation on their doorsteps or fill the void of unfulfilled promises.
Every day the government’s incompetence and lies get harder to ignore. Like the death toll and the line between themselves and those demanding their sacrifice. A lot of them were at Hyde Park today, fighting for their right to drink a latte on a terrace or walk their dog on its favourite beach. They’ll go home feeling like they did a thing when all they did was exercise their privilege. They’ll declare the protest a success but it’s been a huge failure for far-right politics.