17 Sep 2010

Protesting the Pope - Strawberry Hill

One of the Policemen opened a gap in the barrier and joined the side of the Angels

Protesting Angels

The angels didn't speak much but they had a minder who was chatting with some cross-waving Irish ladies, patiently waiting to see their spiritual leader. "No, we aren't here to perform", he explained, smiling, "Actually we're from Gaydar, - we're here to protest"
"Gaydar?", they hadn't heard of it, "so you mean.... you are all gay?"
"Yes, exactly"
"Well, now I don't have anything against gay people, but really I don't think they should flaunt it"
There was a pause, and I asked the woman if she thought perhaps Pope was flaunting, at all, in his popemobile and white outfit, parading all around London, and she looked at me, astonished
"The Pope's not gay!"

Meanwhile the policeman was having a better time with the whole rapport and communication thing. Establishing that the angels were local he imagined that maybe they were part of the Richmond LBGT network? They were. "Oh, well  you'll know one of the PCSOs at our nick then, he's quite involved there", and gave a name. They knew him.

Times have changed.

Considering it is a State visit that cost £20m to police it was a pretty small affair. Around 100 policemen watched 75 demonstrators and perhaps 300 supporters who lined the narrow pavements together and mixed good naturedly.


Journalists patrolled up and down talking to protesters. Most of them chose to interview Nina, a photogenic and articulate young woman carrying an umbrella decorated with colourful condoms. She spoke eloquently about a woman's right to control her own fertility, and protect her own health. The mingling policeman asked her for her surname, which she declined to give.  No one interviewed the catholics. 

The sun shone and we waited; after a while a postman cycled up the road to wild cheers from the school children lining the side. Behind the protesters stood Peter Tatchell, thin and old looking now, in a sober suit  "Look, it's that bloke from Channel 4", said a young protester.


The policemen shifted their weight, walked up and down, and explained that no, they didn't know when the Pope was due to arrive. The crowd basked in the sunshine. One top of St Mary's University, some armed police were visible with binoculars. A helicopter hovered.

And then the Pope arrived: invisible in a Jaguar behind dark glass windows, preceded by outriders and security his car came from the opposite direction from expected and dived directly behind the gates, not even passing the bulk of his school-age supporters, who were expecting him from the other direction. Blink and you'd have missed him.

The demonstrators built up a half-hearted chant of 'resign, resign' the catholics waved flags and whooped, and then it was all over; the crowd dispersed, I went for a bacon sandwich at the cafe and chatted with an earnest priest. 

Tomorrow: the march

Do your recognise this man?
In the wake of the G20 all the police officers present were clearly identifiable: with their warrant numbers on their shoulders and and in many casesalso their names on their chests.  Except this one.
The red shoulder tags signify an Inspector.





2 comments:

Not so PC Plod said...

And would you like to give me your surname Alibert?

M4GD said...

Okay but where are the strawberries in ‘Strawberry Hill'?