So November the 5th rolled round again and I went for a gentle stroll around Westminster, a whole bunch more people went for a march later as well – I’ll get to them later. As has become traditional I started in a rather pleasant public house for a drink to brace myself against the weather. The rather enthusiastic rain combined with the small number of fellow walkers meant I discarded my plan to wear Guy Fawkes make up and just went for a gentle stroll to admire the latest additions to the security theatre along Whitehall.
As one of my companions hadn’t accompanied me on such a walk before they were somewhat surprised at how much security street furniture there was and how obvious it really is once you look for it. So the walk along Whitehall was quite pleasant playing, spot the CCTV camera, suggest what sort of a “threat” any given measure was to protect against and “I remember when you could walk down Downing street”. We carried on across Parliament Square admiring the crowd control barriers already in place for those going for a march later. We toddled over to the doors of Parliament to admire the really ugly barriers and traffic segregation there, in places 4 barriers deep. We weren’t carrying cameras and were really being very obvious about what we were looking at, hard to discuss what a CCTV camera may be watching without obvious pointing, so when we paused outside Westminster Abbey to discuss what the direction of the crowd control barriers told us about their purpose a very polite policeman came up for a chat. He asked if he could have a word and informed us that he was attached to the palace of Westminster and that we’d been observed paying a lot of attention to the various security measures and would we mind telling him why? He did say that the concern was largely due to the hijinks and shenanigans expected later (my words not his) – which all things considered seemed reasonable and nice to know they are paying some attention. I think at this point I confused him a little by explaining we’d been going for a walk on the 5th for quite a few years before the Johny come latelys that were turning up this evening had, and that my interest was in the changing face of the area and how some of the security measures are obviously meant to be seen and to make a statement and others less so. I will admit to being rather disparaging about the Million Mask march that all the preparations were in place for to which he expressed that “that was democracy”, a sentiment in the light of subsequent events I’d possibly argue with. Pleasantries concluded, he asked if we’d mind providing our details as he has to make a record of people stopped and questioned – a request to which I chose to comply with I didn’t get the feeling there would have been any issue if we’d declined. No move was made to search us, or ask what our further plans were though we did volunteer that we were off for a pint, before wishing him a good day and heading off for aforementioned pint.
Retiring for the customary swift shant in the Westminster arms, a passing member of the public voiced the opinion that we’d have had more hassle if we’d been dressed in a burqa – I don’t think it’d suit me to be honest but maybe another year. Round the back roads towards the pub were quite a few vans full of very bored looking police people. Given this was around 2pm they were going to get a lot more bored before anything happened. Suitably refreshed we made out way back up Whitehall acquiring a different perspective on the security furniture from the other side of the street, before stopping in the Silver Cross for lunch and to play count the passing police vans. By around four quite a few had gone past and police activity was increasing, around then people also started arriving apparently destined to join the later march. Thus it was time to complete our little stroll by wandering back to our hostelry of origin admiring the already gathering masked masses and the neatly parked up police vans in their traditional spot by St Martins.
Once more ensconced in the warmth of the bar, we sat down to watch as other protestors arrived and killed time until the “official” start time of the Million mask march – which is a tale for another day.
As a side note hypothetically would anyone be interested in going for a short security theatre walking tour of Westminster/Central London