Monday, 19 March 2012

Syrian protest in London

Syrian protest, London, 17 March 2012

This was my first solo outing since the large elephant entered the room.  Regular readers will know what I am talking about, non- regulars will find out in the next post, where I will blog on my ‘experience’ so far.

I had a choice of two events to attend on Saturday, the Syrian anniversary protest, or the Save the NHS demo.  I opted for the Syrians, purely on the basis that I was more likely to sell some shots from that one.

I waited at Marble Arch.  The protest was due to come down Edgeware Rd, onto Park Lane, and finally onto Belgarve Square, home of the Syrian embassy.

Rumours had been doing the rounds of the social network sites that a group of Pro- Assad demonstrators were going too ambush the protest around the Hyde Park Corner area.  I recced the march route before hand and there was no sign of any pro-regime protetsers.

The previous day, MSM commentators were estimating the size of the march as appx 6000, with coaches traveling to the capital from around the UK.  On the day there were perhaps 1000 anti- Assad marchers. 

I shot a few frames at Marble Arch and then headed down to the embassy. 

Arriving in Belgrave Square it was clear that the police were taking no chances.  The ‘pens’ to contain the protesters were reinforced, with double barriers at the front.  They also extended all the way round three sides of the square – Seemingly the police expected larger numbers as well. 

The embassy building bears the scars of recent more ‘violent’ protests.  The frontage of the building is pockmarked by the strike marks of paint bombs and  windows which have been broken by bottles and stones.  All of this is of course, in sharp contrast to  buildings in Syria where the pockmarks are caused by machine gun rounds, and the windows have been broken by rockets and shrapnel.

The last time I covered the Syrian protests, their numbers were bolstered by the presence of many Hizb ut Tahrir members.  I posted at the time I felt this was a bad move by the Anti Assad camp due to the extremist nature, and conflicting ideas regarding western intervention of Hizb ut Tahrir.  This time they were not present.  If their absence  was a result of the Syrians realising that their worthwhile cause was being hi-jacked by an extremist group or not – well done to the Syrians.  It makes it even easier for the neutrals in society to empathise with them.

It was great to see British news photographer Paul Conroy at the event.  He is still on crutches but he is alive and home after the dreadful events in Syria which claimed the life of his colleague.  I wish people would remember the risks that some photographers/camera men take in order to open the eyes of the world to events that, were it not for them, would remain just a story left to the imagination.  Imagine a major news story without photographs – the saying ‘ A pictures tells a thousand words’ is very true. 

As for the Anti Assad camp, they were vocal, colourful, and well behaved.  There were several coach loads from around the country present, with some traveling from as far away as Scotland.

There was another protest going on at the same time.  Just further along the square and separated by a no-mans land, was a small protest by Pro Assad Syrians.  They were perhaps 50 in number and vocally were no match for their anti Assad countrymen, despite the presence of a very professional looking sound system.

There was a strange sense of the Pro Assad demo being ‘choreographed’.  Whether it was the posh sound system and purpose built stage, or perhaps the way all the protesters had the same brand new looking flags, I couldnt put my finger on it.  What it reminded me of was the early days of the Lybian protests in London.  Back then, the pro-regime protesters were rumoured to have been ordered to attend, on fear of being returned to their homeland, or in some cases, paid to be there.  This is of course, wild speculation on my part!  That said, they too were well behaved.  In fact I did not see one arrest during the whole event.

Neither did I see any overweight police men/women – but then again, I was in Belgrave Square, not in the waiting area of a dietery advice centre! 

I cant end without a mention of the Portugal ‘thing’.  First off, and from the bottom of my heart, a massive, massive thank you to those who have offered support, voiced opinions and generally just been there for me so far.  As a family we have been overwhelmed by the levels of support shown, by even complete strangers.


The help and support from www.annaraccoon.com has been second to none.  She certainly has the knack of shall we say 'information gathering'.




I will be blogging a detailed account of events leading up to my arrest and some events since, soon, in fact, perhaps tomorrow.


In the meantime, BBC breakfast news will be airing some pre recorded interviews with my wife and I tomorrow morning.  I am being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 live as well from 10.00 am. 

Once again, many thanks.

Graham




4 comments:

  1. It's been quiet here for a long time. Also, I've seen nothing from Anna Raccoon for a couple of weeks now. Call me paranoid, but I'm getting worried.

    The MSM is being its usual useless self on anything beyond celebdom & re-keying official press releases.

    What's happening? How are things with you?

    Ray.

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  2. Good result Graham, the Portuguese police are clueless.

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  3. Portugal ! - PHEWWWWWWWW!

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  4. Excellent blog. Very interesting Portugese affair - gobsmacking !
    Can I ask you how you know what's going on as a freelance photographer. Fair enough London must always have something going on but how do you find out about the protests etc and know just where to be. Always intrigued as you won't have the same contacts as the MSM ?

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