The Olympic Games gives people an excuse to do stuff like this with their hair, making anyone who opposes them a gigantic killjoy. What’s not to like about the Olympics? Didn't you see the Opening Ceremony? They played Happy Mondays for like, three seconds. Doesn't that and the fact that a guy from Norfolk made it to the quarter-finals in the judo make up for the radioactive stadium and LOCOG's corporo-fascism?
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 whining. It turns out there are a ton of things to get bummed out about!
The sky police were there to ensure that the protest stayed peaceful. They used the same comforting soundtrack of constant overhead whirring that has been making Londoners feel extra-safe for the last week or so.
Paralympic protesters led 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 stumble home from the bar, 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 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 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.
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 from 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 around. 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 that is being used as a missile base by the army. The idea is 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 soldiers on the tower. Some of the protesters shouted at them to jump. I love black humor 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."
As the march continued, the police put out tape to keep the crowd on one side of the road, but the tape kept on breaking. It turned out the sneaky bastard in the fisherman's hat was cutting it with a pair of scissors. He almost 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, realizing 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 found 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-meter finals that he feared the police would confiscate as “evidence.”
The protest found its way to a rally in a park. Speeches were made but none of the “Let’s all march to Stratford and burn the Olympic Park to the ground!” variety, so the day ended 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.