John Lennon was probably smiling down from heaven yesterday - and George Orwell too - as millions of voices throughout the world sang ALL WE ARE SAYING, IS GIVE PEACE A CHANCE! There is no doubt that this time they really, really meant it! It was heartwarming to read about the success of the massive peace march that occurred in the heart of London. It was the biggest public demonstration ever held in Britain - more than 1.5 million people turned out.

It surpassed the wildest expectations of the organizers and was comprised of people not affiliated with any group, and who have never participated in such a thing before. The Eton George Orwell Society* was there too, doing Orwell proud, as were the thousands upon thousands of ordinary, non-political people who came from all over the country to add their voices and send up their energy to the cause of peace. It was George Orwell's greatest hope that "the proles" would realize their strength and seize control from those who had stolen it from them. As Winston so eloquently stated in 1984:

"If there was hope, it must lie in the proles because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated... The proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it?"

Here's excerpts from the London Observer's report of the event: ~ Jackie Jura

There have been dafter questions, but not many. At 1.10 yesterday afternoon, Mike Wiseman from Newcastle upon Tyne placed his accordion carefully on the ground below Hyde Park's gates and rubbed cold hands together. Two elderly women, hand in hand in furs, passed through, still humming the dying notes from his 'Give Peace A Chance'. They were, had he known it, early, part of a tiny crowd straggling into Hyde Park before the march proper.

Half a mile away, round the corner in Piccadilly, the ground shook. An ocean, a perfect storm of people. Banners, a bobbing cherry-blossom of banners, covered every inch back to the Circus - and for miles beyond, south to the river, north to Euston.

Ahead of the marchers lay one remaining silent half-mile. The unprecedented turnout had shocked the organisers, shocked the marchers. And there at the end before them, high on top of the Wellington Arch, the four obsidian stallions and their vicious conquering chariot, the very Spirit of War**, were stilled, rearing back - caught, and held, in the bare branches and bright chill of Piccadilly, London, on Saturday 15 February 2003.

Are there any more coming? Yes, Mike. Yes, I think there are some more coming.

...By three o'clock in the afternoon they were still streaming out of Tube stations to join the end of the two routes, from Gower Street in the north and Embankment by the river. 'Must be another march,' grumbled the taxi driver, then, trying in vain to negotiate Tottenham Court Road. No, I said; it's the same one, still going, and he turned his head in shock. 'Bloody Jesus! Well, good luck to them I say.' There were, of course, the usual suspects - CND, Socialist Workers' Party, the anarchists. But even they looked shocked at the number of their fellow marchers: it is safe to say they had never experienced such a mass of humanity.

There were nuns. Toddlers. Women barristers. The Eton George Orwell Society. Archaeologists Against War. Walthamstow Catholic Church, the Swaffham Women's Choir and Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War... One group of SWP stalwarts were joined, for the first march in any of their histories, by their mothers. There were country folk and lecturers, dentists and poulterers, a hairdresser from Cardiff and a poet from Cheltenham.

Cheer upon cheer went up. There were cheers as marchers were given updates about turnout elsewhere in the world - 90,000 in Glasgow, two million on the streets of Rome. There was a glorious cheer, at Piccadilly Circus, when the twin ribbons met, just before one o'clock.

This march was not really about politics; it was about humanitarianism. 'I'm not political, not at all. I don't even watch the news,' said Alvina Desir, queuing on the Embankment for the start of the march at noon. 'I've never been on a march in my life and never had any intention. But something's happened recently, to me and so many friends - we just know there's something going wrong in this country. No one's being consulted, and it's starting to feel worrying - more worrying than the scaremongering we've been getting about the terrorist threat. I simply don't see how war can be the answer and I don't know anyone who does. And, part from anything else, as a black woman in London, it feels dangerous to spread racial tension after all that's been done.'

A Cheshire fireman nearby said: 'They will take notice of a protest like this. Our MPs, and Blair himself , were voted in by ordinary people like those here today. Blair is clever enough not to ignore this.'

Linda Homan, sitting on bench at 9.30 in the morning, watching a bright and dancing Thames, had come down early from Cambridge and was wondering at that stage whether many would turn up. Palettes of placards lay strewn along the Embankment, waiting. A trolley was pushed past filled with flags and whistles; there were more police - then, way back then - than marchers. 'I've never felt strongly enough about anything before. But this is so different; I would have let myself down by not coming and I think this will be something to remember.'

Retired solicitor Thomas Elliot from Basildon, Essex, a virgin marcher at 73, said: 'I remember the war and the effect the bombing had on London. War should only be used when absolutely necessary.' Andrew Miller, 33, from New Zealand, whose feeling, echoed by all around, was that 'all the different groups that are marching today show the world that the West is not the enemy, that British people do not hate Islam and Arabs and the coming together of people is the greatest way forward.'...
by Euan Ferguson, The Observer, Sunday, February 16, 2003.

* Orwell (age 15) marched with Eton on Armistice Day in 1918.
The school was given a patriotic holiday and marched down the High Street waving flags and cheering until they were hoarse... nearly half of the 5,700 Old Etonians who fought in the war had been killed or wounded while leading their men into combat. ~ from Orwell, Wintry Conscience of a Generation, by Jeffrey Myers

** PICADILLY PEACE STATUE (the Angel of Peace reins in war)

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~