Today I marched for Europe. I marched with babies in slings and buggies and toddlers on shoulders. I marched with teenagers and 20-somethings who bristled with betrayal. I marched with flat-capped socialists and hippies blowing bubbles. I marched with people in wheelchairs, on bikes and with walking sticks. We marched past people who ignored us, a few who booed us and lots who cheered and gave us thumbs up and sounded horns and we applauded every one of them. Bus drivers honked their support and chambermaids in five-star hotels waved and clapped from windows high above us.
We marched with humour and with terrible EU puns (I will always love EU; never gonna give EU up) on professionally-printed signs and on bits of torn cardboard and pizza boxes, written in felt-tip pen. We sang and danced and chanted, applauded, whistled and cheered. Passing Downing Street, we chanted “Shame on You” and it was the only negative point of the day. All ages, nationalities, genders, religions, ethnic and economic backgrounds, stronger together. We stood in the shadow of Big Ben and listened to a pre-teen, an MP, a refugee, a journalist, a comedian and an 85-year-old woman who brought tears to more than just my eyes with her anger and shame.
I am too battle-weary and cynical to think I will change anything. I have walked those streets before, placard in hand, anger in heart. I have marched against war and austerity and for refugees, I have marched against taxes that make those with least suffer the most, policies that make education and health services suffer and that punish those who wish only to better themselves. And I’ve made not a sliver of difference. Today, I can’t speak for those who marched with me; I can’t know their motivations. I can only know mine.
I can only know that last week, the most momentous and most tragic thing that has happened to my country in my lifetime occurred. Like others, I feel disenfranchised, I feel like I’ve lost my home and I feel despair at a future where everything is going to change, most likely for the worst. But that’s not why I marched. I marched because I need to show that I am not OK with this. And I need to show that a lot of us are not OK with this. Last Friday, I flew out of the UK and into Europe and nice, friendly Europeans commiserated and offered sympathy. I want to show those nice, friendly Europeans that not all the British are small-minded, unwelcoming xenophobes, that we are not all inward-looking and fearful. And by marching, I want to ask for just a little bit more kindness because it seems like in our petulance and isolation we don’t deserve it. I march to beg Europe not to turn its back on us just yet.