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The voice of Londoners

"What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now."

The passionate crowds and the occasional feverish protest chanting are among the many things that characterise London.

Seldom does a weekend in London pass by without some of its most recognisable landmarks being noise polluted by the high pitches of horns, megaphones and handheld speakers from an over-excited protest crowd.

Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street, Hyde Park and the area around Downing Street are the most popular choices among protesters. The rationality behind these choices is evident – these landmarks are usually crowded with people and hence provide a wide audience.

Though the media coverage usually focusses on the violence and clashes between protesters and police, most protests here, regardless of their scales and causes, bear the same peaceful and organised character. Placards and banners are prepared and provided by the organisers and police are always present for keeping order but rarely interfering.

Peaceful protesters

Protesters, though passionate and sometimes agitated, are mostly law-abiding. They politely hand out flyers and patiently explain their cause to passers-by, who are intrigued enough to stop their hasty paces to find out what is going on.

However, violent clashes do happen and the protesters do get aggressive from time to time, especially when two opposing groups demonstrate at the same time and in the same area.

The themes of protests vary from policy changes of the UK government to opposition of a foreign regime; animal welfare to human rights; and tuition fee increases to benefit cuts.

Protesters are also from all walks of life: students, pensioners, civil servants and foreigners. In fact, anyone who has an issue that he thinks is important enough to be known by the public may not hesitate to take it to the streets.

London is one of the most ideal places for staging an outcry and there are certain reasons why the capital of Britain has become the basecamp for many protestors.

Freedom of expression

The free expression tradition provides people with a relatively free and safe environment to promote their causes. Also, the vast resource of mainstream media makes it easier for the protesters and campaigners to have their voices heard.

To Londoners, the value of voicing their discontents through protesting is like the importance of air to human beings: commonplace and essential.

If you are free one weekend and want to experience a bit of British political life, why not visit one of the favourite spots for voicing concerns. You might have the chance to take part in one of the many protests that are planned the city.

 

Word and images by Luna Lin


  • Visit Trafalgar Square, London WC2. Nearest station: Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines)
    Visit Oxford Circus, London W1B. Nearest station: Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines)
    Visit Hyde Park, Speaker's Corner, London W2 2UH. Nearest station: Marble Arch (Central line)
    Visit 10 Downing Street, London
SW1A 2AA. (Note: Number 10 can only be viewed through the gates from Whitehall). Nearest station: Westminster (Circle and District lines)
    www.number10.gov.uk
  • More articles by the author:

    An artist's impression of London

    Walking in London: leave your stresses behind

     

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