sábado, 2 de julio de 2016

'We are the 48%': tens of thousands march in London for Europe

March for Europe
‘We’ve been disenfranchised and hoodwinked,’ say protesters as hotel chambermaids come to the windows to cheer

The hollow, bitter wit of the banners and placards was a fair indication of who took to the streets of London, in their tens of thousands, on the March for Europe on Saturday, hastily scrambled on Facebook. “And if this isn’t big enough,” said Jonathan Shakhovskoy, who is with a marketing firm in the music industry, “we’ll do it again next week, and the week after. Normalise the mood, make it less ugly.”

“Un-Fuck My Future”, “No Brex Please, We’re British”, they read. Pictures of Whitney Houston with “I Will Always Love EU”, “Europe Innit” and “I wanna be deep inside EU”. “All EU Need is Love”, “Fromage not Farage”, “Eton Mess” and, more seriously, “Science Needs EU”. “Hell no, we won’t go!” they shouted, rounding Piccadilly Circus.

No one was fooling themselves that these were the penitent huddled masses from Ebbw Vale or Sunderland come to beg after all for EU funding; this was a vocal segment of the 48% for whom departure from the EU is a disgrace, a catastrophe or both.
“I’m here because I feel totally disenfranchised, hoodwinked and browbeaten into this political, financial and social suicide,” said Mark Riminton, a business consultant from Sussex, “and the only thing I can think of to do is go on a march.”

Lark Tester, an optometrist, had come up from Cardiff – and drawn a heart and written “Peace, Love, EUnity” on the back of a pizza carton to make her placard. “Even if we achieve nothing,” she said, “we will have shown our neighbours in Europe that we are not all for Brexit, and we love you.” But “there is a point to this”, insisted her mother-in-law, Tas Earl. “We need to stress that it is not possible for them to go ahead with Article 50 with just under half the country totally opposed to what they are doing.”

David Lang is a manager with a precision engineering company in Birmingham who says he was one of the few people at his firm to vote Remain, ”even though departure from the EU could bankrupt us in two years – almost all our exports are to Europe. It’s madness.”

Joanna Chapman-Andrews from Winchester made the point that “it’s a good thing in some ways. It’s brought a whole lot of issues into the open that weren’t there and needed confronting. It’ll shake things down.”

“It’s the mother of all shakedowns,” said her daughter Anna, who lives on a houseboat at Kew and had brought Joanna’s granddaughter Sadie in a pushchair for her first demo.

There was a strong hint of one of the many upcoming chapters in this unsteady narrative: a brain-drain from Britain, and the shedding of British passports. Alex Good, an architect, had convened his friends in a coffee shop on Curzon Street before the march, and joked that it was his leaving party before emigration to France. “I’m here, but to be honest I think the march will achieve very little. I campaigned for Remain, and it was clear to me that Britain has a lot to do before it really deserves to be a member of the EU.”

His friend Jonathan has an Irish passport, and is about to set in motion securing the same for his three children, “so they don’t get stuck here”. The writer and historian Stella Tillyard was marching, but also carefully planning her next move: residency in Italy, to which she is entitled for family reasons. Stationery retailer Julian Watson, up from Bristol, explained that his father-in-law was Dutch, and that he and his wife plan to “be living in Holland, if this happens, with Dutch citizenship”.

Liz Mackie and her boyfriend Leo Dawson – both in their 20s – plan to move to Athens within six months, said Leo. “The vote showed that deep racism is not something that happens to other people, locked away,” said Liz. “It’s everywhere – ultimately this vote was about race, and fuck ’em, I’m out.”

In some ways, those who watched the march pass were as interesting to observe as the demonstrators. From the open top of a tour bus, a man jeered and booed, thumbs down. But chambermaids ran to the windows of bedrooms they were cleaning at the Ritz to cheer, applaud and wave.

Fiona Edwards from Brighton held her child’s hand in one of hers and in the other a placard reading: “A future of hope can’t be built on hatred and bullying.” “We’re here because we are the 48%,” she said. Exactly, not the 51.9%.

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