Today’s newspapers show several pictures of angry protests, with vandalised statues and zero social distancing. They tell a story: of demonstrators who seemed to be alienating potential supporters and risking re-igniting the virus that is destroying the very lives they rightly claim matter. But that’s not a fair picture of what happened at the weekend. The vast majority of those demonstrating did so while respecting social distancing and without violence or destruction. I was at just such a demo. It might not have grabbed the headlines, but what happened in Tooting Common is far more representative of what happened.
I’m a councillor in Queenstown in Battersea (home to the US Embassy) and was invited to speak at a small demonstration on Tooting Common. A local resident found herself moved by what’s happening in America and wanted to show some solidarity. She had never organised a demo before, but just wanted to make a stand.Her first planned demonstration a week ago outside Tooting Broadway station ended up attracting around 300 people and she wanted to hold another but was very concerned about social distancing. She asked me to help.
We agreed to have a gathering on Tooting Common. There was more space there and we wouldn’t be in the way of passing pedestrians. The plan was to meet at 12.30, have a couple of quick speeches, “take a knee” for 60 seconds at 1pm, chant, take pictures and go home. At 12.45 on Tooting Common, it looked like a fairly low-key affair: me, the organiser and about five other people. Ten minutes later there were about 200 people; by 1.10pm the section of the common was filled with around 1000 people - including an MP, an Assembly Member and several local Councillors. The pictures are below: quiet, respectful, socially distanced.
These were not activists, but local people who had come to quietly show solidarity.The extra people meant that time stretched but we were all disbanded by 2pm. The mood was excited, determined but also respectful and restrained. Perhaps why it didn’t make the news. For obvious reasons: it’s more interesting for a lot of people to look at (and get worked up about) the worst of the protests. But the others deserve to go on the record: pictures are below.
PS From Fraser Nelson Our readers have been sending in pictures of other demos from around the UK. Here they are, alongside some other photos:-