Random encounters on a protest march

A few friends from Amsterdam are in town at the moment. To visit Dublin and to catch up with my good self, at the same time. How thoroughly pleasant and modern. When I met them on Tuesday night, I told them about the Repeal the 8th protest march the following night, through town to coincide with International Women’s Day. Their faces lit up.

After all who doesn’t enjoy marching down the main thoroughfare of the nation’s capital city with a placard, demanding justice and rights, and hollering in unison with like-minded people. I could do it every weekend. The march was for a good cause (and I’m not going into the background of the march –  I went into proper detail about it on yesterday’s BLOG POST.

We met at the Candy Café opposite the Garden of Remembrance – a garden I know well. It seems to be the congregation or destination point for every city centre parade or march or demonstration. And I’ve been on a few. I wonder if I could be one of those awful people that Donald Trump might describe as a professional agitator. Then I reminded myself that I am not being paid for protesting. And an expression like ‘professional agitation’ involves too many syllables for the thundering, orange, bloviating clown that is the president of the United States.

The crowd was large. And loud. My friend told me that it was her first protest march. This is understandable seeing as pretty much everything works with reasonable efficiency in the Netherlands – reproductive human rights as well as the water supply and public transport. I’ve only been on a few protests in Amsterdam. The first was to protest the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. That was at the time when the invading powers were still pretending that war was not fully intended, planned  and therefore inevitable. We naively thought that protest might make a difference.

The second protest in Amsterdam was protesting the Russian Ambassador’s presence at a Russian cultural event in the city, a few days after the propaganda law in Russia which criminalised any positive reference to homosexuality in the media.

Since being back in Ireland I’ve accidently found myself embroiled in an anti-water charges protest (this was inadvertent – I happened across the huge protest on Dame Street, spotted the contingent from Limerick, and felt honour bound to join); a few abortion rights marches, the anti-Trump Woman’s March rally, the Black Lives Matter rally, a small protest at the Italian embassy to encourage the government there to legalise civil partnerships for same sex couples. The annual gay pride parade while not a protest, rather a parade, but it follows the route of the other demonstrations. And it feels somewhat rebellious.

I am a liberal of the most bleeding heart kind.  But my motives are multifarious and true- I support these causes and I also love the perspective on the city that marching down the middle of the main street gives you.  They give a sense of solidarity. In an era of fake news where bare-faced lied are accepted as truth – for example on the cesspit that is TheJournal.ie’s comment section when trolls inevitably claim that no-0ne was in attendance – you can dispute this with the evidence of your own eyes and experience. Not that I comment on that website. Why destroy one’s own soul?.

Well back to this evening. The crowd was enormous – numbering in the thousands. It was largely female, and predominantly young. I felt rather decrepit and male. I banished that thought. The placards were hilarious as they tend to be at Irish protests.

‘Womb for improvement’

‘The Fempire Strikes Back’

‘Girls just wanna have FUN(damental human rights).

A placard on a dog read ‘Even the dogs on the street want to Repeal the 8th’.

As well as my all time favourite – the classic ‘GET YOUR ROSARIES OFF MY OVARIES’.

The atmosphere was focussed and angry while remaining good natured.

A few solitary counter protestors dotted the route with their pinched, pious, potato faces. They all looked a touch constipated. I think they are the folks who send letters signed ‘Outraged in Termonfeckin’ to the newspapers.

Just as we were about to set off a woman approached one of the visitors from Amsterdam. She tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around – they both burst into laughter. They knew each other from years gone by in the Netherlands. Neither were Irish. Neither had seen each other in several years. Both had mutual friends. It was a very random and unexpected encounter.

It gave me a very good vibe indeed. You never know who you might bump into on a pro-choice protest march.


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