|Pen at the pre-march gathering|
I've been on rowdier marches. As you'd expect, a protest march by teachers is a pretty civilised affair. 'No talking there in the back row!' But there was a genuine sense of solidarity and seriousness of purpose. And also a sense of grievance and indignation at the things some of our politicians have been saying. 'The politicians are telling us that we are wrong,' said the very mild and moderate ATL guy. 'But that has only served to stiffen our resolve.'
Ok - so the calumnies and aspersions cast by Cameron and his cronies pale into insignificance against Maggie Thatcher's notorious, 'the enemy within' comments. But steady on, Tory Boy, you push people too far and they'll push you back. Teachers know how to deal with bullies.
I learned a few lessons today. Firstly that I've lost my way a bit in recent years. I've not been on a protest march since I was a student - although I've been on other kinds of marches since. I'd also ended up on the 'dark side' in management ...
But this was my milieu. Getting out there on the streets to show solidarity in a just cause. The highlight of the march for me was when a train passed over the viaduct alongside the Castlefields Arena as the rally was taking place and the driver gave a hoot of support. Yayy!
Ok - so I don't have a lot of time for the oddballs and the anarchists and all the hangers-on who appear at any demonstration, no matter what the cause. But there were people there today who'd never marched before, who'd never dream of marching or protesting under normal circumstances. They don't deserve criticism from right-wing politicians or the Tory press. They deserve our respect. And they deserve a hearing. Their presence spoke volumes.
Surely the police must have sophisticated ways of calculating crowd numbers? So if they did err on the skimpy side, what's their agenda?
But he carried on taking pictures of them taking pictures of him taking pictures of them ...
Anyway, at the end of the rally when the organisers thanked everyone who'd contributed, special mention was made of the police and they were given a round of applause. Teachers are aware that the police are contractually unable to strike and that their pensions are just as vulnerable as anyone else's. 'We're standing in solidarity with the police on their pensions too,' the organisers said.
One of the coppers, watching from a vantage point, responded with a slight, elbow level wave. It was slightly cheeky, perhaps a tad ironic, yet also rather furtive and subversive. Very warm, very human, very heartening. Good for him. Well done that bobby. He's just trying to do a job like anyone else. And let's hope he's able to retire with his pension intact.