Freetards storm Westminster
Shed Bloke is out and about
The Open Rights Group held its demonstration against the Mandybill after work yesterday, and here's a photo diary.
It was held at Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament. We arrived a few minutes after the scheduled start time of 5:30pm.
The ORG had cleared their first hurdle: finding 25 stewards requested by the Police. The protesters had gathered back away from the road, and with their black trenchcoats looked like a surly Austrian school group of sixth formers. London is full of surly sixth formers at this time of year - all that was missing was a worried-looking language teacher.
The organisers asked protesters to wear black tape over their mouths, which symbolised the oppressive nature of receiving 50 letters from Geoff Taylor and then having your internet speed cut back.
Placards were also blank. It was all very symbolic:
The Pirate Party had a flag as well as a banner.
There were about 60 present, not bad, but not enough to make much of an impact on the large space of the Old Palace Yard. Fear not, more were arriving all the time, leaving their day jobs at the coal face of information behind.
By the barrier, passers by were given an A5 card titled "I'VE BEEN CENSORED. HELP!"
It said: "The Government plans to kill off public wifi, block websites and disconnect families and businesses from the internet."
(Disconnection still figures in imagination of the protesters, even though it's not going to happen.)
After about ten minutes somebody (possibly a teacher) suggested everyone move to the barriers for more impact.
A surge towards the barriers!
There were blank placards for everyone. The ORG said it had made up 150. A few were still available as the square filled up with journalists.
I spotted two ZDNet reporters - which I think is half their staff.
Stockpile: Not all of the 150 supplied placards were used
One protester had made up his own placard, and very good it was too.
This man made his own excellent placard
If the ORG hadn't made the bone-headed decision to time the protest for Budget Day, I would bet this would have got in the papers. As it is, nada.
By the time an MP with a Northern accent (John Grogan, Lab., who is standing down) was handed a copper cone - not as expected, an electric megaphone - it was quite lively. The MP said the Bill should be debated in the Commons. A LibDem candidate was then handed the microphone, which was helpfully wiped down for her by ORG's Jim Killock.
Unfortunately you had to be within four feet of any of the speakers to hear what they were saying - they were drowned out by the sound of the rush hour traffic. Electricity really helps here, chaps, it amplifies the sound.
Or maybe it was a really sophisticated conceptual joke - like the blank placards - and I'm just being thick.
Cory Doctorow peeled off his black tape gag, and looked like he was in his element. It was Lenin rousing the proletariat in Finland Station Square. Or at least it probably was in his imagination. This is a chap with a need for self-dramatisation. He signed off with a line that tells me he hasn't ever seen Dave Spart's Alternative Voice.
"Tell your friends. It's our last chance for a free and open society going forward."
(I particularly liked the going forward.)
One music industry spy, noting the paunches and hairstyles, said "there are more ponytails here than in the music business!" It's a bit of a cliche now that at digital rights events you get a lot of people who look like Comic Book Store guy. But a few do. There were one or two females, and while they jeered the influence of corporate lobbyists, one wore her affections.
End major corporate lobbying!
(Unless it's Google)
A music writer friend of mine came along, and I asked him what he thought if all. He had a very politically incorrect answer - stop reading now if you're a sensitive soul.
"Disconnection would be the best thing to happen to some of these people," he told me. "They'd get out the house, meet girls, and go for a walk."
The bill seems destined for what's called "wash up". Some of the protesters might need one too. And after an hour of this malarkey - amongst people determined to pretend the world is ending - I needed a hose down, too.
To the pub we went. ®