It was the liveliest part of the protest. Men, women and children skipped to the sound of reggae and dancehall classics. A sea of placards adorned with sardonic slogans bobbed up and down to the beat of the music. Some folks sang along, while others nodded their heads, waiting in the hope that they knew the lyrics to the next song. I hobbled ten metres in front of this particular faction and asked my girlfriend to put her arm around my mum so I could take a picture. The banner behind them read: 'Cannabis is a medicine'.
My foot ached. I hobbled slowly, unable to dance like other folk. At first, I moaned about my foot. Within an hour of limping with such an eclectic crowd, however, my moaning ceased. I realised there were folks around me with complaints far worse than my little limp. There were men and women eighty and above using walking sticks to help voice their disapproval. There were people heaving wheelchairs through London's crooked streets. Blind folks used white canes to navigate their way through dense crowds. One particular man wore a large bandage embellished with specks of blood covering the entire right side of his face. Surrounded by such folks, I was verily content with my limp.
Voters from every party - including traditional conservative voters - marched together. Green Party members, Labour factions and a variety of socialist, communist and anarchist supporters walked under the same banner. They disagreed on the solution, but agreed on the problem.
Trade unions, as always, were in full force. The Fire Brigade Union - one of the proudest organisations and a notable victim of austerity - elevated their characteristic black and red float thirty feet in the air, serving as a meeting point for wayward marchers. Other vocal trade union members stood on boxes and addressed the crowds. They reminded us about the importance of workers standing together - not that many needed reminding - and issued a warning about upcoming anti-trade union laws.
Women carrying their children conversed with men hoisting red flags with yellow hammer and sickles embroidered in the corner. Colourful flyers adorned every inch of the pavement with messages of peace. Anti-war factions marched alongside folks wearing scrubs to promote the need to protect our doctors and nurses. Migrant supporters walked arm in arm with Indian workers. Hari Krishna's chanted on the ground, and on office blocks above them builders danced to the applause of the crowd. Students of all ages improvised lyrics to classic rock songs released before they were born - a particular favourite being 'Cameron's just a shit man from a shit family' - and ageing parents, like mine, clapped along.
The police helped to direct marchers towards their friends and families. A few Bobbies even smiled and nodded their head to the sound of lone drummers - perhaps as a small act of solidarity from those forced to remain neutral.
At Westminster, a stage was erected and notable figures addressed the crowd. We sat for an hour eating peanuts and listening to the speakers under a statue of Mahatma Ghandi. Perhaps the most endearing was Julie Hesmondhalgh. As proud as punch, the Corrie favourite smiled as she told the crowd that socialism wasn't dead. Others simply thanked us for our participation and we reciprocated in the form of cheer.
The reason I recite my personal experience of the People's Assembly March is that I imagine my experience was similar to other protestors. It was peaceful, cheerful and happy. Above all, however, it was humbling. It was humbling because people of all ages, with different political opinions - ranging from moderate right-wingers to revolutionary anarchists - united under a common cause and a single banner.
The media typically perpetuated something entirely different. They posted pictures of the rare incidents that portray the march as somehow unpleasant: folks in gasmasks, foreboding flares and a little fire. They invariably focussed on the negative aspects - propagating a hateful narrative that contradicts everything that the protest represents.
I'm sure many people had an experience similar to mine and few had an experience similar to that extended by the right-wing media. For what it is worth, my little limp against austerity gave me a sense of hope. It assured me that there were still people in Britain that cared a great deal about those suffering - maybe 250,000 of them. I wish the media had offered that narrative, instead of focussing on evils that didn't really exist. If they were inclined to offer such a realistic narrative, however, I imagine the march may not have been so necessary.