Like thousands of others, on Saturday the 20th of June I marched in protest of our government’s austerity measures. Estimates of the number of people involved vary, but the exact figure isn’t as important to me so much as the sense of solidarity I had on the day. Writing about austerity is a solitary activity, but also sometimes a dispiriting one that since the general election result has often felt like hitting my head against a grimy wall alone whilst a few bystanders look on from the distance with little interest. I’ve even felt a little embarrassed to share my views, afraid that some of my acquaintances would be offended by my lack of political apathy, or mistake my ramblings as purely self-indulgent, when they also do really come from a place of real concern.
When I arrived outside the Bank of England on Saturday to swathes of people, chanting, bustling, sporting some questionable hairstyles in some cases and perspiring in almost all, my first feeling was one of relief. Here, all kinds of people from different walks of life were united in their common disgust for the indecency of austerity. I was relieved, because, thank goodness, it wasn’t just me knocking my head against a brick wall; we were all doing it together.
I’ve seen the left criticised before for having no sense of humour and taking itself too seriously. Perhaps this is true in some cases, and I know that when it comes to politics I can be far from humorous, but then again, the pain and suffering that austerity has the potential to inflict is hardly a brilliant punchline. Yet, many of the protesters on Saturday certainly weren’t afraid of dipping into satire, and the many light-hearted placards that populated the crowd were what really made the whole experience hilarious in a bizarre kind of way. Everything from one sign which simply had a picture of Grumpy Cat with the caption “no,” to a picture of Theresa May with the Mean Girls quote “you can’t sit with us,” the full spectrum of banal to brilliantly witty was on offer.
After hours of waiting and surviving stifling narrow streets which bottle-necked the protesters, the demonstration culminated appropriately at Westminster. Sure, there were those apparently so sincere they felt the need to hide their faces with balaclavas, but ultimately it was a relaxed and welcoming demonstration that was a testament to the diversity of people who dared step beyond the cyber soap box, and quite literally make a stand against an ideology which has no humane or economic sense. So maybe it wasn’t just a case of bashing heads against an imaginary wall, but an attempt to tear it down altogether – with just a bit of comedy and controversy mixed in of course.