March for the Alternatives: mixed messages

By Phil Wood
March 26, 2011

It was right to be here at the March for the Alternative ( today, but this was not the moment when the tide turned. There were too many subtexts; too fragmented an agenda for that.

Our march started on the steps St Martin in the Fields near Trafalgar Square. Anna and I joined the Housing Justice churches' campaigning group, opposing the cuts and also standing up for the homeless people who Westminster City Council intend to 'cleanse' from central London.

I have been on many protests before. This one was strangely subdued. As we made our way to Hyde Park there were whistles, banners and an occasional African band, but remarkably little chanting. We largely marched in silence.

I know this may be read around the world so forgive a word of explanation. Just because Brits are quiet doesn't mean we're not furious. Believe me, we are mad as hell. The chief beneficiaries of the boom - the people whose reckless arrogance and greed devastated the global economy - are still raking in the profits. The poor and helpless pay the price. No doubt the minor violence which broke out after the march will be blown up out of all proportion by the right-wing press, but overwhelmingly today was an expression of nonviolent outrage.

I mentioned 'subtexts'. One of the most apparent is that protestors are more united in what we are against than in what we are for. The exclusion of Green Party leader Caroline Lucas from the platform today struck a petty note. It's a sober reminder that there are partisan agendas at work on all sides. Her video message can be viewed here:

I am sure there were many Christians on this march. Some were identifiable. A sizeable group of Quakers walked and waved as we stood on the steps. I spoke briefly to Niall Cooper from Church Action on Poverty and noticed a Pax Christi presence.

For Christians, this march might be a turning point, of sorts - at least for those of us who read our 16th and 17th Century Radical Reformation history. The former Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, David Sheppard, was not wrong when noted that God has a "bias to the poor". But we are still missing a spark, a catalyst, some Gandhi or Luther King to step into the limelight. This was not yet Tahrir Square.


(c) Phil Wood has a varied background uniting community development, social entrepreneurship, housing and Christian mission. Phil is a Mennonite but has a Methodist background. His blog is at:

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