London is full of people wanting to voice their opinions, preferably on the street, ideally with flags and banners. Since I enjoy such outings myself, my ears are always perked to hear loud voices chanting in unison. This past week was a basket-full. First was on Baker Street walking south from Hampstead Heath toward Hyde Park. We heard them long before we saw them. Several hundred men (maybe one or two women) in various incarnations of Chelsea blue soccer gear were shouting and drinking in an intersection. A few police stood on the perimeter, keeping them from entirely blocking the street, but the Chelsea fans seemed perfectly happy shouting and drinking in place. I wondered if maybe they were showing support for Chelsea’s ex-owner, a heavily sanctioned Russian oligarch, but I don’t think these guys were interested in anything beyond the playing field. Not gleaning anything further, we walked on, noting only the piles of plastic rubbish and beer cans growing at their feet.
A few blocks along, we arrived at Marble Arch, on the NE corner of Hyde Park. A HUGE poster was draped across the Arch, evidence that Extinction Rebellion is alive and well in London. In fact, the day before, they’d blocked several of the bridges across the Thames, in one case led by a 76 year old woman who refused to get up off the pavement and the young policemen were initially unwilling to remove someone who might be their grandmother.
Then, on into Hyde Park, was a large group of Pakistanis protesting various shake-ups and anti-democratic events in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capitol. I’m sorry to say I have not kept up on this world hotspot, but the UK has the second largest population of Pakistani’s not living in Pakistan and they ARE keeping close track, and they are not happy with what’s going on in their homeland.
Finally, my favorite by far. Today, walking through Sloane Square a few blocks from our flat, we came upon a couple hundred elementary school kids holding their handmade signs and pictures, marching and chanting “Save our Planet.” Plenty of grown-ups were around to shepherd them safely across streets. We, on the sidelines, cheered and clapped and many cars honked their support. I have to say, it brought tears to my eyes.
One more sign of the times around here (and I imagine in other western cities) are Ukrainian flags and colors flying here and there. Here are two sightings in London: one at the giant Battersea Power Station renovation and one at the venerable and ancient Somerset House on the Strand.