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Brexit And The March For Europe: Maybe You Had To Be There To Appreciate It

28/03/2017 16:05
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

Wish you were there. Really do. But since you couldn't make it, no problem. Here's what to appreciate: It's believed there were more than 50,000 people last Saturday on March 25th taking part in a positive, peaceful, pleasant March for a United Europe in the heart of London, from Park Lane to Westminster. People wore blue and handed out yellow flowers in memory of the heroes and victims of last week's tragic events.

It was a sparkling blue-sky day. People (and their dogs) from all over Britain - families, babies, the elderly, millennials, people of all ages, colours, religions and nationalities - came together and just walked. Yes there was the group from Wales, the group from Devon, the group from Stratford, and on and on, but rather than a description I read somewhere of "affiliated groups protesting Brexit", I see a more accurate perception from the inside as: Real people from Real life, who never get to be seen or heard, who are not afraid and who believe in Britain, believe in unity and believe in Europe, came together with one voice.

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Photo:Alex Ratcliffe

For all its internationalism, it was a very British affair: "Let's all queue here for hours as the march stretches out for miles, before we can even move, then quietly shuffle forward with our buggies". And yet, it was affirmation that Britishness is no longer incompatible with being European as well.

No anger, no shouting, but a visible passion for all the important reasons for being there, including a stubborn opposition to Brexit, and a celebration of the 60th anniversary to the day, of the Treaty of Rome. Strains of "Happy Birthday to EU" could be heard everywhere. And the placards. An absolute favourite one just read: "Tut."

And others: The humorous, "May, Non!", "Missing EU Already" and "I'm British. I'm on a March. Things must be Serious", morphing to the more impassioned, " Save Our United Kingdom", "May Day, May Day", and "Brexit NOT the Choice of the Next Generation".

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Photo:Alex Ratcliffe

Being handed a bunch of flowers upon arrival by the wonderful Avaaz group, set the tone for what was not going to be an anti-Vietnam nor anti-Iraq type march, nor was it a Woodstock. It was just a sample of Real Life, spilling out onto the streets of London, good people, respectful, and focused on what they believe.

People with their tupperware lunches, letting you squeeze through, squeeze in, sit down, whatever. A father overheard saying kindly to his toddler, "Don't be a Remoaner. You can't eat until lunch". Parliament Square packed, shoulder to shoulder, people standing in the sun, listening to a host of speakers. And amongst so many others, the inspiring young man speaking from the platform: "I'm British, I'm Muslim, I'm Pakistani and I'm European!"

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Photo:Alex Ratcliffe

And yet, one can't help but be disappointed that media coverage of this massive event was conspicuous by its near total absence. News was devoted to further information about the perpetrator of last Wednesday's attack, more sensational photos, and more Death. Barely a photo of Life Happening, of what could be, if seen, so heartening and encouraging for so many.

So maybe you had to be there to be appreciate it, to be amongst the thousands and thousands , walking for hours, showing "more which unites us than divides us." It may not be on the front pages, but at least we know that it happened. Lots of good stuff happens.

And while we're at it, take note Fox News: London is not broken. Nope, not on your life.

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