Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Daily Mail Lies (No Surprise There)

So, there was a big demo in London yesterday (amongst other cities) calling on Israel to not murder Palestinians. You may have heard about it. You may have been there, organisers said about 70 thousand people marched, police said 20 thousand, so that tends to average out at about 40 to 50 thousand. And it was cocking freezing in London yesterday, we got snowed on for crikey's sake. On to what I want to say about that in a minute. Newspaper coverage is mixed. Going by websites The News of the World seems to have ignored it, pretending it didn't happen. The Times has a tiny news piece down the bottom of it's UK news, they concentrate on the fighting but mention it was a mostly peaceful protest, though they don't give any figures to show their readers how it was less than 1% of the march that got punchy. The Telegraph does much the same but quotes the head of Scotland Yard who is accepting that the trouble was caused by a tiny minority. The Indy is more sympathetic and has more of an overview of the entire day, about the only outlet to acknowledge that the violence only started after most protesters had finished and left.

The award for the most biased report that has the least to do with reality must be from the Daily Mail though. Protesters clash with police as 100,000 strong London Gaza demo descends into violence. No mention of the fact that most of the demonstration and demonstrators were peaceful, instead it's straight-up trying to suggest that 100,000 people tore apart Kensington. Firstly, where did the Mail get 100,000 people from? Stop the War, who tend to massively overestimate numbers (it may be a Socialist thing) said 70,000 people, the police (who tend to do the opposite) said 20,000 and the Beeb reckon it's 50,000, so the Daily Mail made their own number up.

(UPDATE: 70,000 is what I thought StW were saying at the end of the demo yesterday. Septicisle, who was out later than me, says StW were saying 100,000 but StW's website is currently suspended. So that solves the problem of where the Daily Mail got the 100,000 figure from. Still, it's rather odd that they have chosen to accept StW's figure rather than going with the Police estimate. I suppose this is so as to make the following seem exciting enough.)

Violent clashes occurred between police and around 20,000 protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in London... The protesters - mainly young men - knocked down barriers threw missiles including eggs, red paint, sticks and shoes as 300 officers in full riot gear tried to maintain the peace.

Now, I'm no expert, and I know that police are trained for riot control, but I don't think these numbers can be right. Indeed, they seem suspiciously close to The Battle of Thermopylae which makes me wonder if someone at the Daily Mail watched 300 before filing their report. Training, schmaining, if 20,000 people wanted in to the Israeli embassy then the only way 300 police can stop them is if they each have their own personal tank and there's no way the supposed 'liberal, left-wing anti-Israeli media' could hush that up.

There were reports that some protesters had tried to set fire to police vans.

The violence, which broke out in front of the Israeli Embassy, appeared to be led by a hard-core of masked and hooded youths.

'There were reports'... 'appeared to be led'... The weasel words that signify you are about to be served a load of shit from someone who wasn't there, hence the fact this is attributed to 'Daily Mail Reporter'. This suggests it might actually be a report from a wire service rewritten by a Mail editor.

As it was, the demo that people who actually went on it attended was cold. Very cold. Have I emphasised how cold it was yesterday? Stop the War did no-one any favours by insisting that everyone stand around in the corner of Hyde Park for a few hours listening to speaker after speaker talking about Gaza as though that wasn't what we had all turned up for. When I got to the other end and found more of the same I decided I'd had enough and headed for home. I know that these things tends to have lots of speaking but there's a difference between a mild October day and January. Maybe the youth were trying to keep warm while being patronised by Juliet Stevenson, the police misread the situation and baton-charged them and the Mail reported it as 'feral youth attack police'?

Once we actually started marching things went fairly smoothly at first. I had my iPod on and can report that Asian Dub Foundation's Punkara is a great album to march to. We made good time along Bayswater Road although we were stopped for about ten or fifteen minutes about halfway along the street. I'm not clear exactly what the problem was but the stewarding was fairly week as I saw any number of people getting stuck the wrong side of bollards and traffic barriers because the stewards for that section were two old guys with a bit of white string. There was no danger to anyone at this time, it was all good-natured.

We turned down Kensington Church Street and it was as we approached the bottom of that road where it turned into Kensington High Street that things ground to a halt. I'm not sure what was going on, the roads were all closed off for the demo all the way so I'm not sure what was slowing us down but something was. The police around here looked a lot more edgy (though maybe that was me projecting) and there were several noticeable police photographers doing their thing so maybe it was the police trying to slow things down so they could look for people they thought might be trouble-makers, I have no idea. It would take a couple of minutes to walk from Kensington Church Street to the corner of Kensington Gardens normally, it took us over thirty minutes and I was not too far from the front of the demo.

The demo I attended was very much a family affair, I got banged in the legs by buggies several times, though that's hardly unnatural in British streets these days. There were a large number of teens and young adults wearing masks, which of course makes it easier to demonise them when they are pictured in battle with mounted police. The thing I come away with though is that this all goes to show the failure of the British education system. I'm not sure if I saw any home-made banner that was spelt correctly...

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