Monday, 28 July 2014

Wales for Gaza - part 2.


I didn't include this bit of the story in my blog from Saturday, as I didn't feel it mattered overall. Whole Sunday however, I have been involved in discussions about what happened during the March for Gaza in Cardiff. Discussions rather frustrating. There were plenty of voices using the incident at Mill Lane for their personal crusade against Muslims and emigrants in general. Some also called the march a 'Muslim protest'. In my opinion such statements are a showcase of the ignorance of their authors. All of the above, along with articles and images (which I could compare with my memories) printed in today's newspapers are the reasons for which I decided to write this post.

But before I'll get on with it, I would like to remind everybody, why the march happened and why I marched in opposition to the slaughter of Palestine. Please take time to watch this video.


I wrote my Saturday's blog as soon as it was possible after my return home from the march. I wrote about how I felt about it at the time, but consciously I decided not to include the fact that I was actually in the middle of and get involved in the event which took place at Mill Lane. Surprisingly (or not) the images and videos which emerged afterward compared with memories helped me to clarify (to myself) what really happened. But let me start from the beginning:
This is what I remember: I didn't see how it started. I saw some movement from a short distance. I had a camera in my hand, but I wasn't there to document anything. I went to the march because I believe and stand by what the march was organised for and while marching to practice the use of flash. As soon as I saw the brawl I quickly moved forward, at that time I actually thought I will take pictures. I remember getting on the pavement by the sitting area of bars and looking towards protesters. I have resigned quickly from taking images because it was looking pretty nasty and I was hating the fact that someone managed to start the aggression during the peaceful march. I remember jumping over the fence and trying to stop someone from shooting the glass towards the seating area. When I jumped over I went in the middle, between fighting groups and I started to shout 'STOP IT, STOP IT' with my hands up. I remember halting few people from getting on the other side of the fence. It was really intense, but I was determined and gave my all to help to stop the fight. There was no Police around at all. I remember one of the leaders. He was also shouting 'STOP', but as I was facing the 'marchers', he was facing the people from Mill Lane. At some point I've turned around and I saw Jeffrey Hurford from Socialist Worker Party, on the other side of the fence he was trying to calm the situation down. I thought he just 'arrived' at the scene and joined us to stop the brawl. When everything calmed down, I moved with other marchers towards the Heyes. I remember turning around and snapping a pic of the broken glass and chairs. 

This is what I have seen after: 

I was stunned after watching this video. When I saw the guy going on rampage, throwing the chairs and tables around, I couldn't believe it. I don't remember it to be happening at all... The video taught me as well, that mentioned before Jeffrey Hurford didn't appear at the place in the end of the situation (as I remembered), but he was there and he tried to stop the brawl from the very beginning. I have to give him my respect for that.

I was also looking for myself in the video. I appear on the screen (in 1:19 minute) between Jeffrey Hurford (the guy in grey hair and white t-shirt) and the umbrella. I wear a grey t-shirt. 

Later the images appeared on WalesOnline. There is this massive picture (taken from the video I guess) of the guy holding a table just before he throw it at people. I was looking at it and it was really mad. It wasn't until today morning when my sister called me to tell me I am on the picture that is printed on the front page of a newspaper today. As I've already bought and read both ECHO and Western Mail, I asked 'Which one?' she said 'in ECHO'. So I looked at it again, and there I was. On the 'table' picture in the top right corner. I seem to be rushing towards the fight. I was surprised looking at it. I think I haven't seen myself on it before, simply because I didn't expect myself to be there... I can't recollect this scene at all. On the picture however it appears that I actually look straight at it... This is how the memory works... And this is where the power of pictures and images comes to play (here mixed with memories).

 OK, but what's the point?
When I left the march and when I have written my yesterday's blog, I thought I know a lot about what happened at Mill Lane. In the end I was there, in the middle of it all, and there is no way anyone can be more specific about a situation than it's witness. I still agree with my statement, but I have to admit, that the recordings which emerged later on, helped to clarify, in my mind what really happened that day.
As I mentioned I haven't seen who started the fight. I've only heard that it was someone who was drinking at Mill Lane. Today another video emerged, which actually confirms that. Check for yourselves (start at 2:20 minutes):

As much as I believe that if not for the racists, there would be no incident at all. I have to admit that the guy who thrown the table was completely out of order. I'm pretty sure, he is one of the people who will soon have a visit from the Police at home. That is if he didn't have already.
I've read time and time again from people who wasn't there and who saw the videos and photos that 'obviously it wasn't a march for peace'. Well, it was. There was no Police around but we actually managed to stop the violence by ourselves in a very short time. If it wasn't for peace, and there wasn't people who stopped the fighting it could end pretty bad with injuries on both sides.
I've read today, the Police is defending their way of policing the march... Come one. You failed. I didn't see Police at all. There is no presence of the Police at videos as well. apart from their signal sounding at some point...
The whole Mill Lane incident didn't take longer then 5 minutes. It is unfair to judge the march by it. There were about 3000 people (of all ethnicities and religions) marching for PEACE IN PALESTINE and only a small group of them was provoked to violent action. The action which didn't have anything to do with the theme of the march. It was started by racists and was of racist nature. There was enough good willing people within us to stop the trouble.
Overall the march was a great success. The case we marched for is of the highest importance.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Wales for Gaza

Before I start my own recollection of what happened on streets of Cardiff today let me say this: I'm really proud of about 3000 people (of all possible ethnicities and religions) who marched together in opposition to slaughter of Palestine. It is very uplifting there is so many positive people who want to be heard.

Having said that you must know that I left the protest upset, after the march was over and its 'leaders' started to talk to the crowd...

Let me start from the beginning. I arrived at Cardiff City Hall around 14.20. I went on my own, but it didn't take long until I started to meet some of my friends: Jamal who runs Polish Biuro in Roath, then Ashley and Simon from Third Floor Gallery. I took my camera and was taking pictures, but to be honest I wasn't under a pressure to cover anything. I was there for peace and while being there to practice my flash skills a little.

Everything was going fine, people were chanting 'Free! Free! Palestine!' It was peaceful and it was loud. Just as it should be. The march lead from mentioned City Hall through main road, by the Castle. At that point I actually took most pictures of the day. The guy who was a leader at the time with the microphone in his hands (they passed the mike along themselves) was very passionate and his leadership very visual.

I have to admit that I wasn't thinking about it at the time, but now I am not very sure if people who planned the march thought its way through. We turned left into High Street and followed to St Mary Street, where trouble started. In the hot day like today it is not a surprise there were plenty people drinking outside of the pubs. It is not a surprise some of those people were drunk and it is not surprise some of those people were racist (front line of the march was composed mostly of Asian part of community). By 'Walkabout' it kicked off. Before you knew few glasses were thrown both ways... It was a minor incident, which ended up quickly, stopped by stewards. Few meters further however, opposite the Library, it kicked off again. I didn't see how it started (I've heard after that it was people from the pub who were responsible). This time it was not a joke. Glasses were flying along with chairs. There was hate on both sides. Man, it seriously upset me because for me it looked like the real reason of the clash was not a difference of opinions, it was more of a racial nature...

I have to give all my respect to the 'leader' I mentioned before (the guy with the mike). He was there first, between two groups trying to stop something that could become a seriously violent clash. Luckily nobody was hurt, and there will be no bad news in local media tomorrow (I hope), but I couldn't bring back my positive spirit no more... While we walked through the Hayes, I was actually sad, as the march became something I wasn't identifying with anymore. I was there for peace. As we turned right, to Queen Street, under the statue of Aneurin Bevan there was a group of what looked to me as conservative Muslims. If I was upset before hearing them calling for separation, 'separation caused by you!', I became really disappointed in human beings in general. I'm not religious myself, but I respect all religions. I can't bare when someone (no matter if it is a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or whoever else) is using it for wrong reasons.

On Queen Street I was walking along with Simon with whom I shared the way I felt. As we arrived back to City Hall we met Harriet from TFG and we chatted a bit. This is when speeches started...

A female on the mike started by talking about the pride she had in great turnout, next thing she said was something like 'We the Socialist Worker Party...' What? Who cares about Socialist Worker Party today? This is not a vote collection opportunity it is a march to STOP THE SLAUGHTER OF PALESTINE. I said good bye to Harriet and Simon. I was to upset to stay.

I love Britain. Last week I went to Cardiff Bay with my wife and daughter. I was telling Binta how Britain is the best place to live for a mixed couple, like ours. I comped it to Poland, where we would struggle, I compared it to other places and no matter what place I brought in to the conversation, Britain always felt better. We even had some spot and count competition. We spotted about 11 mixed couples within an hour (it is not including us).

I love Britain, but today showed me how fragile she is.

Ps. Please note, that most probably 90% of the marching people, who were further away from the front, and who didn't witness what I have seen, will have much different, 100% more positive recollection of the march.