The London Marathon, and then May Day. In the big city, it’s certainly easier to be at happenings.
We decided to get to the great rally, because an email had given me the impression that it was going to be focused this year on a human rights campaign called #TruthForGiulio. Such were the numbers flowing toward Trafalgar Square that buses had to stop many blocks away and let their passengers walk. We encountered the march, which had started from Clerkenwell; followed it along the Strand. As you can see, it was colorful and the dominant color was red.
Yes, as you probably know, May Day is also International Workers’ Day . Though there were contingents of Tibetans and Kurds
and others with lost rights to demand, most were trade unions or branches of the communist party. A leaflet they handed to me, pointing out that the current woes of Britain’s proud health service are due to the return of the profit motive, was rather convincing in light of recent financial scandals.
We took a short cut to the Square and so were there early enough to be right at the front, so I’m afraid you don’t see the crowd behind us, said to be record-breaking.
You can really see only marshals, possibly the speaker – and one of the two massive and impassive lions, on which I remember perching at some earlier gathering.
A very small part of the crowd was the Amnesty International contingent. I saw Shane Enright taking their photo, and he’s let me use it.
Shane is Amnesty’s Community Organiser (Unions and Workplaces) and Global Trade Union Adviser. And here is his photo of Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trade Union Council.
Which reminds me (forgive the digression) of Kipling’s
The Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
Are sisters under their skins
which you could consider egalitarian- and feminist-leaning.
The fate of Giulio Regeni was not the general theme of the May Day rally, though it was mentioned by some of the speakers.
An Italian aged 28, Giulio had been in Britain for ten years and was a graduate student at Cambridge University. He went to Egypt for fieldwork for his doctoral research on independent trade unions, and on February 3 his half-naked body was found in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo. He had been tortured to death with an incredible number of savage blows, cuts, and burns.
Authorities tried to blame it on a gang, but it turned out Giulio had been seen in police custody. Because of Italian investigators, a worldwide petition by academics, a vote of condemnation by the European Parliament, Amnesty’s campaign, and pressure on the U.K. government to do more, Giulio’s case sheds a spotlight on the many such disappearances of ordinary Egyptians each month. So much for the “Arab Spring” that removed dictator Hosni Mubarak. The miitary is back in repressive power, and it crushes dissent whether from the Islamist or the socialist direction.