Protest The Pope, London 18th Sept 2010: An account from one who was there.

Yesterday travelled down to London to hook-up with fellow hootoo-er Effers (AKA Alison) to join the Protest The Pope Campaign.

Her account can be read here.

We rendezvoused at St Pancras as planned and navigated the tube to Hyde Park, we knew we were in the right area as we began following the devout with these little yellow "Pilgrim Packs" which we found totally hilarious.

Propping up our sign on a park bench, we enjoyed a spot of lunch, were approached by several other protesters, wondering if we were it. The sign fell over at one point and sustained a few scratches which was a pity.

There was an early highlight as one (mad) woman with some peculiar notions about the Virgin Mary (see Effer's account) took one look at the sign and marched over who seemed to be more offended not by the charge of Vatican collusion in covering up child abuse than by the fact we'd defaced (literally) The Virgin Mary
to make our point.

Felt good to be out on the streets and not sat at home complaining about it to a computer.

The Protest was a little late getting under way, becuase of what appeared from where we were to be a bit of incompetent organisation or possibly pandering to TV cameras (however since there were no sources of information this cannot be confirmed - a fact underscored by every event, me or Effers would turn to the other and ask "what just happened?" - which wound up being the day's longest-running gag.)

EDIT: According to The British Humanist Association who were organising the protest, attendance took everyone including the police by surprise which is why the event was so forestalled in starting, as extra officers had to be drafted in from chaperoning the faithful in Hyde Park and elsewhere.

There was an Unintelligible Italian Guy leading the charge - it'd' have been better if we had all left singing to the strains of Stand By Me, but this opportunity was squandered and dissolved into chants of "when are we going?" Eventually though we did.

As we ambled our way long, we were passed by several tourist buses who all
seemed very interested in what we were doing, and we got lots of camera flashes and and ogled expressions. Filing up the other-side of the road, interestingly over on the other side of the road there were the yellow-backpacked Catholics filing into Hyde Park. One objected to our stance against child abuse (could it be they are in favour of it, it's really hard to tell) by giving us a thumbs down gesture.

This was followed by two people on the top of a London bus flicking us off.
Clearly were were getting on people's nerves. Fantastic!

Our sign got a lot of attention and photographs taken of it. So thanks to Christopher and Effers who each had a hand in it's design, while I took charge of the manufacture.

There were lots of imaginative placards and costumes in evidence, my favourite by a long distance was the quote from Life of Brian Romani Ite Domum it said in Latin (presumably so The Pope could read it). Apt, understated, cool and funny. in short: GENIUS.

There were A LOT of people crowding into Horse Guards parade - more than had
been anticipated, events were halted as police re-organised the barricades to squeeze in the estimated 20,000 protesters + 2.

Speeches were all good, there was a bit of a non-sequitur for those concerned
with matters Popish when speakers began railing against Islam. Well okay, sure, but that's not why we'd come.

However, Dawkins, Robertson, Hari, Golacre and Tatchell all stayed on point.

Me and Effers having survived the day on a diet of mostly chocolate biscuits retired to the pub for some Hops and protein in that order. We
did our own part for consciousness raising that day too, as an American couple, mother and daughter on vacation from the US took the bother of thanking us for protesting the Pope's visit and said they were in 'full agreement ' with our sentiments.

After that modest success, me and Effers said our goodbyes and parted.

I was then on my own in London Town fending for my own sake; I ended up
following two nuns into a tube carriage on my way back to King's Cross. They took one look at my sign and told me off for it.

"What if I told you I knew a priest who was accused of abuse [1] but was found innocent however he now isn't allowed to be a priest?" said one sternly.

Since I have no interest in seeing innocent people in jail unjustly I expressed my congratulations, however my questions "by whom?", both in the case of who had found the priest innocent and who was barring him from his profession went unanswered as I was getting off at Leicester Square.

However despite parting on a point of semi-agreement, with much left unresolved, I remain uncertain what her point was, not for the first time that day I was left with the uncomfortable impression that majority of Catholics aren't aware of the abuse endemic in their faith or just don't care (and certainly don't care to have it pointed out to them.)

An exception was the man I met in Starbucks as I waited in the bowels of Saint Pancras Station for my train, he first asked if he could take a photo of the sign, and then introduced himself as a catholic. He was the only person I met that day who demonstrated the slightest concern for the issue of child abuse and cover-up, and was furious with the lack of responsibility taken by the Holy See.

Which just goes to shows there are some good Catholics who have their concern in the right place.

I made it back to Chesterfield very late, gone 11.

As I took my sign down from the over-head luggage rack and was about to
leave the carriage, I head the two young guys opposite me who were gearing
up for a night on the town.

"Did you hear how much his visit is costing?"


"millions of tax payers money"


And I didn't even have to say a word.


I took my camera with me, this is a record of events described in sight and colour.


for the record I didn't say "I'm not surprised", though I may have thought it.

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Comment by Richard Healy on September 22, 2010 at 12:29pm
I need to buy After Effects....but you're right it would be cool.
Comment by George on September 22, 2010 at 5:08am
@ Richard Healy - I give you .... this work of genius.

That is funny, and very well done.

It would be cool if someone good with After Effects threw in a few Tie fighters in the background.
Comment by Richard Healy on September 20, 2010 at 12:05pm
I agree. rawr....
Comment by Richard Healy on September 20, 2010 at 12:04pm
I admit nothing.
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on September 20, 2010 at 11:51am
Unfortunately, the wind wasn't blowing quite hard enough. Too much Pope not enough kilt. :o(
Comment by Zero_6ix on September 20, 2010 at 10:59am
I get the sneaky suspicion that some of those pics were just for the lovely ladies. Admit it.
Comment by Richard Healy on September 20, 2010 at 10:25am
@ Grace

For all your Benedict/Darth Sidious LOLs

I give you .... this work of genius.
Comment by Richard Healy on September 20, 2010 at 10:25am
Yes George. Pretty nifty, no?
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on September 20, 2010 at 4:04am
I loved the photo of the Pope morphed into the virgin Mary! You have a virgin Mary/Darth Sidious thing going on there.
Comment by George on September 20, 2010 at 3:59am
Was the sign you carried that got people angry the "Suffer the Children" one (here)?

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