MATTHEW TAYLOR and PAUL LEWIS | The Guardian
Some stand in silence while others shout ‘Tory scum’ as funeral procession passes on way to St Paul’s. Read this story on the Guardian here.
Hundreds of protesters turned their back on Margaret Thatcher’s funeral procession on Wednesday during a highly charged but peaceful demonstration.
People gathered at Ludgate Circus near the end of the route, where organisers had called for a silent protest against Thatcher and her policies.
In the event there were shouts of “what a waste of money” and “Tory scum” as Thatcher’s coffin passed by at about 10.45am although there were no reports of violence. Similar shouts at other points on the route were drowned out by rival clapping from supporters of Thatcher.
Rebecca Lush Blum, 41, from Hampshire, who set up a Facebook group to organise the event, said she was pleased people had been allowed to voice their anger at Thatcher’s legacy.
“We have shown the world that not everyone in this country thinks Margaret Thatcher was a great thing for this country … today felt like an important moment in the battle over what her legacy is and what sort of country we want so I am pleased that our voice was heard.”
Police had told Blum that the protest could go ahead and by 9.30am around 100 people had gathered at Ludgate Circus. As the first ceremonial military band went past just before 10am there were boos and cries of “waste of money” from protesters. Thatcher supporters – including one man on a balcony overlooking the crowd in a suit and Thatcher T-shirt – clapped and cheered.
Numbers of protesters swelled and by the time Thatcher’s coffin went by at 10.45 police at the scene estimated there were about 300 protesters.
The atmosphere was tense, with military personnel gathered at the other side of the road, clapping and cheering.
Dave Winslow, 22, an anthropology student from Durham who was holding an acrylic placard reading “Rest of us in Poverty” and wearing a T-shirt with the messages “Power to the people” and “Society does exist”, was one of those who wanted a silent protest.
“We want to maintain a dignified protest. It’s counterproductive to cat-call and sing Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead. The message is that spending Â£10m on such a divisive figure in times of austerity, especially when austerity is being imposed on the poor, is wrong, especially when harm is being caused to the disabled and the NHS.”
There was a heavy police presence during the protest with “liaison officers” mingling with the crowd and heavily armed police standing guard at the barriers along the route. Armed officers also took up positions on surrounding buildings.
Once the coffin had passed some protesters were visibly moved. One man, who did not want to give his name, had tears in his eyes. He said: “She ruined my family’s life. She took my dad’s job, everything … I promised myself I would come here for this day years ago.”
Julie Guest, who had been in Iraq in 1998, said she pledged she would come when she saw a six-year-old Iraqi boy die because sanctions had stopped him getting medical treatment.
“The consequences of her policies have spread a long way in this country and abroad and I said to myself when I saw that boy die that I would remember him when this day came.”
The funeral procession passed within a couple of minutes and the crowd began to disperse. Blum, 41, who had been besieged by media since the story about her planned protest appeared in the Guardian on Monday, said she was pleased and moved by what had happened.
“It’s provocative to have a state funeral for such a controversial politician, and I wanted to remember and respect all those who suffered under Margaret Thatcher. I think we did that today.”
The Metropolitan police said: “Additional police officers assisted their colleagues on ceremonial duty who were lining the route around Ludgate Circus after a barrier was pushed. There was a small group of protestors behind the barrier.
“The incident occurred a short distance away from the funeral cortege. [There were] no arrest[s] and no interaction between police and protestors.
“Police also received reports of items being thrown towards the funeral cortege, however we can confirm that these were flowers.”