Tuesday, February 18
We are the people
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, February 17, 2003
There will be millions of people who will never forget Saturday February 15 2003. It was an extraordinary combination of the utterly prosaic and the deeply moving: a bursting bladder and the nearest toilets several hours' walk away in Hyde Park, an aching back and blisters, and then the remarkable sight of a heaving mass of people along the Embankment converging with crowds pouring across Waterloo bridge. Everywhere there were astonishing juxtapositions: the body-pierced peaceniks alongside the dignified Pakistani elder with white beard; the homemade placard "The only bush I trust is my own" drawing surreptitious giggles from a group of veiled Muslim women.
This was a day which confounded dozens of assumptions about our age. How much harder it is today than a week ago to speak of the apathy and selfish individualism of consumer society. Saturday brought the entire business of a capital city to a glorious full-stop. Not a car or bus moved in central London, the frenetic activities of shopping and spending halted across a wide swathe of the city; the streets became one vast vibrant civic space for an expression of national solidarity. Furthermore, unlike previous occasions when crowds have gathered, this was not to mark some royal pageantry, but to articulate an unfamiliar British sentiment - one of democratic entitlement: we are the people. [...]