All the People Who Hate The Olympics Protested in London on Saturday
When the Olympic Games gives people an excuse to do stuff like this with their hair, anyone who opposes them is bound to look like a massive killjoy. What’s not to like about the Olympics now that they're here? Didn't you see the Opening Ceremony? They played Happy Mondays for like, three seconds. Doesn't that and the fact a guy from Norfolk got to the quarter-finals in the judo make up for the radioactive stadium, LOCOG's corporo-fascism and the fact that all your friends have left London because they don't want to deal with the tourists?
On Saturday, I headed to the counter-Olympic protest to hang out with a bunch of people determined to ensure the Brits live up to their stereotype and take the gold medal in whinging. It turns out there’s loads to get bummed out about!
The sky police were there to ensure that the protest passed off peacefully, with the same, comforting soundtrack of constant overhead whirring that has been making Londoners feel extra-safe for the last week or so.
Paralympic protesters headed the march, angry that this massive, expensive party is being paid for by the same government whose benefit cuts are making it harder for them to eat and pay the water bill.
OK, so their art may look like the kind of thing Banksy pisses onto walls on his stagger home from the pub, but it's impossible to deny the irony of BP being the Games' “Sustainability Partner” when they're about as sustainable as an octogenarian’s boner.
Some people were intent on carping on and bloody on about Dow Chemical, who manufactured Agent Orange for the Vietnam War, and are responsible for one of the worst industrial disasters in history, ever. Jeez people, get over it. Those things happened ages ago, and they’re providing a wrap for the stadium, a bloody wrap! Doesn’t that make up for it? Wait, what the fuck is a "wrap" anyway?
Then I saw these guys. What could LARPers possibly have against the Games? You would've thought they'd at least be down with the archery or fencing or something.
But it turned out they weren’t LARPers at all, but Circassians in their traditional clobber, highlighting a Russian genocide against their people in the 19th Century. The next Winter Olympics are taking place in Sochi in Circassia and they’d rather you didn’t use their murdered great-great granddad’s tombstone as a bobsled, thank you very much: “We’re really upset that they’re having the Games on the bones of our ancestors,” said Lisa Jarkasi (the girl in the purple dress).
Their anger at the genocide didn’t stop them celebrating their heritage with a traditional Circassian dance. Or at least I think it was traditional, maybe it's the dance everyone would do if they were wearing that dress and forced to dance to the sound of just one drum.
Someone was kicking up a fuss about sex trafficking. C’mon people, I thought we called bullshit on this already!
There were also a helluva lot of journalists about. The whole of the world’s media is in London right now, so Ron Burgundys from around the globe were out in force filming to-camera pieces to act as filler between hours of pundits trying to make sense of the opening ceremony.
Not everyone wanted to get on the hate train. This guy, one Leonard Greaves, had come to protest against the protest because he was pro the Games. When the woman in the picture had grown too exasperated to bother arguing any more, he addressed the cameras: “I can understand their point about the big companies, but they’re a bit late ain’t they? This is our first major day of the Games. They should have been doing this seven years ago.”
Our stroll in the sun took us past a block of flats which is being used as a missile base by the army so that if anyone pulls any 9/11 shit, a terrorist-hijacked plane could be exploded out of the sky, safely bringing the burning wreckage down over definitely not densely populated East London.
There were some squaddies on the tower. Some of the protesters shouted at them to jump. I love black humour as much as the next man but the thought of a hot-headed private with an itchy trigger finger gave me pause for thought. Thoughts like, 'KABLAMO – this protest never happened.'
The protest was nothing if not diverse, but what may have looked like a broad, but united, front of dissent to some looked, to Mark Wilson here, like an assortment of nutters.
“The Green Party? Jesus Christ!” he cried, as the various placard bearers ambled past. “Global Women’s Strike!? Oh good God almighty! Stop the War? JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY, EH?!! If Churchill was here right now he’d know what to do with that lot! [gun gesture]"
Someone from the media scrum: Did you see the bit in the Opening Ceremony about the suffragettes? These people are demonstrating, so they’re kind of in that tradition, don’t you think?
Mark Wilson. “Suffragettes? They were silly women.”
As the march continued, the police put out tape to keep it on one side of the road, but the tape kept on breaking. It turned out the cheeky rogue in the fisherman's hat was cutting it with a pair of scissors. He nearly got himself arrested. One of the police liaison officers said it was “criminal damage”, trying to impress the seriousness of the crime upon the crowd who demanded his release. “Go catch a rapist!” they chanted in response. We grabbed him for a chat when the cops, realising that it probably wasn’t worth enraging the crowd over a ribbon, set him free. He gave his name as "The Reverend Nemu".
VICE: What possessed you to perform such a wanton act of criminal damage?
The Reverend Nemu: Because it’s there, man! I just thought it would be fun. I came upon a pair of scissors. You need to know your kung-fu to know how to use that weapon well. I must have been a bit slack in my training. It could have been worse. I’m just glad their search wasn’t as thorough as it could have been. I was really terrified of what they might find in my bag.
With that he scampered off, leaving me to wonder whether his bag contained an IED, a small bag of weed or tickets to the men’s 100-metre finals that he feared the police would confiscate as “evidence”.
The protest wended its way to a rally in a park. Speeches were made but none of the “Let’s all march to Stratford and raise the Olympic Park to the ground!” variety, so the day passed off peacefully. To be frank, given that it was a response to “the greatest show on earth”, it’s wasn’t the greatest protest ever. I guess a lot of the people who would be on board with the sentiments of the protesters have been placated by all the running and jumping and throwing things.