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.
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.