Saturday, July 02, 2016

2 July 2016 Remain March

Few images from today's march; and some thoughts on it:
I can't remember the exact number but it is probably already over double-digits, the number of marches and protests I have attended in London. This is one of those that I wanted to take part in, but found it a little difficult to associate myself completely, for a number of reasons.
First of all, it would have benefited everyone if this were held before the Referendum, not after. As in this case, as a protest march, not only were its effects very limited; had it been held before, it could have helped expose the bitter lies of the Leave campaign before voting took place. Whether that would attract attention and swing votes, we'll never be able to know.
The march started at Park Lane and ended at Parliament Square, a very familiar route for anyone who's attended one of these. Last year, following an unprecedented surge and devastating loss of lives at the seas of migrants hoping to flee hardships in their countries, we marched on 12 September 2015, in solidarity with them. Sadly, it had very little effect on government policy: Prime Minister Cameron had announced UK would help a mere 20,000 refugee seekers until 2020. The Home Secretary Theresa May is now hoping to replace David Cameron as the Tory leader and future PM.
Ironically, that march took place on the day Jeremy Corbyn was announced as the new leader of the Labour Party, trying to heal wounds caused by a slightly unexpected defeat at the general elections earlier in May. The newly elected leader, and a beacon of hope for the progressive sects of Labour supporters (and others), addressed that rally
I felt similar vibes along the march today: there was definitely more of a 'feel good' atmosphere than one would expect. It was more of a celebration of London's multiculturalism and diversity, as a reminder of its richness that, as the argument has long taken hold, is under threat with Brexit. As BBC has put it, "... [t]here is barely an organiser in sight and what police presence there is is very low-key - but this outpouring of feeling is also quintessentially British: Calm, polite and orderly."
I find this optimistic attempt naive and problematic. It is detracting from the root of the problem and runs the risk of creating a false sense of solidarity at a time of great uncertainty. There are battles to be fought, and it requires energy, long-term strategy and resilience.
More problematic is the view that many Leave voters will take, with this march: at worst they will see it as divisive, both in terms of its narrative and its geography; they will certainly feel as if their vote is being dishonoured; and at best, as a naive attempt with no result whatsoever.
The march and some of the slogans / banners, along with the debate in the past week or so expose some great democratic deficiencies in the United Kingdom: many now wish the Parliament to resolve the Brexit issue over a vote. My initial reaction to this is simple and straightforward: it was the Parliament who voted to take Britain to war in Iraq.
That those who are not happy with a public opinion in the form of a Referendum would wish to use liberty to change the rules of the game can be damaging in the long run, as it creates institutional discrepancies. I will not go into another debate on the extremely significant methodological deficiencies of a Referendum and its validity here, as I have done that earlier.
But, it helps to remember some of multiple issues with the system we have here: from lack of proportional representation, which was challenged and quashed by a vote on Alternative Vote Referendum in 2011, to the deeply entrenched and male-dominated power politics within the mainstream Labour and Conservative Parties in Westminster. What we have been witnessing at the Parliamentary Party level debates in both since the Referendum results is testimony to that.
What this march, both at a personal and a general level, helped uncover, once more: how people organise through social media to gather in thousands within a week and demand their right to protest and receive the necessary support to use the city infrastructure to hold it.
This, viewed in light of how such demands are handled in Turkey, despite spending almost a decade here, still amuses and inspires me. In Turkey, such events often end with tear gas and water cannons... and speaking of water cannons, by the way.
The march once more exposed the toxic, disgusting lies the Leave campaign threw at the British public, and as much as it inspires me to continue helping this exposure, it further breaks my heart to see how a large part of the Leave voters believed in them, wholeheartedly. At a personal level, I have been trying to expose these and will try to continue doing so.
Finally, as I was gathering my thoughts on today and in general, lying down on the grass in Hyde Park, I was overhearing dozens of conversations around me, in almost as many languages. A moment of thought of London losing this very character that makes it so special weighed heavily on me.

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