Aberystwyth, Wales – 31/8/2019
Protests and photographing them have become a part of my life in recent months. I think I’d seen or attended a grand total of three (two of them as a random passer by) before April this year. Today I photographed my sixth since this spring.
The difference with this one, is that it wasn’t an Extinction Rebellion protest – there’d be no die-ins today, and the issue of protest wasn’t the environment. Technically speaking the issue wasn’t even Brexit (although that was an undeniable factor). Today’s issue was Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament.
I’d heard about this through social media the day before. That’s one of the reasons I love photographing protests – you know that if you go to this place at this time then there’ll be something to photograph. The number of hot days and freezing nights I’ve spent pounding the pavement looking for something interesting to photograph is a list without end, and this is a really nice alternative. The fact that it’s normally replete with colour, signage and other photogenic things is a bonus.
The thing was set for a one pm start at one end of the town promenade. I got there ten minutes early, unpacked the cameras. There were people and flags, I took a few pictures to get my eye in. At about one the organisers raised the megaphone and started to speak. What they were saying, I could only tell you in very general terms. I was close by when they started, but I was circulating in search of pictures, and once I was a few yards away the voices of the speakers were drowned out by the waves.
Whenever the march began marching I wanted to be at the front. When you’re in a crowd you can only move at the same pace as the crowd is, so I stuck to the periphery to avoid getting penned in – with the sea on one side and a concrete barrier to the road on the other quarters were close. And people kept coming – I’d stand at the edge of the crowd, but when I turned around a minute later I’d find that a fresh layer of people had collected behind me, like rings growing on a tree.
And then someone shouted that we were off. And indeed we were.
Normally when I see these things it’s a case of the biggest banner being at the front. Presumably they’d been gathered around the speakers at the centre of the crowd, so when the march got under way it was the folks who’d been at the edge of the crowd that ended up at the front of the procession. Some of the organisers made their way to the front, along with some of the prominent members. I’d caught the local assembly member being introduced as a speaker, although I hadn’t caught much of her speech, and she was at the front of things now.
Things paused after a few hundred yards for a quick photo opportunity with the organisers and dignitaries – I’d seen the local MP in the crowd earlier and he was visible now, along with a lady who from her chain of office I took for the Mayoress. Things kept moving after that, with the occasional pause to stop the parade getting too strung out. With it stretched out in line I got a sense of how many were there. Slightly later on a speaker would say that she’d been informed by the Police that there were two and half thousand people there. I don’t know if that’s true. From the pictures I took it doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The route of the march wasn’t especially long – looking at the map I’d estimate eight hundred metres – and at the end of it people congregated on the grass between the St Michael’s Church and the ruins of the town castle.
There we had a second round of speeches – thanks to a PA system mounted on a pickup truck, these were a great deal more audible. Speeches were from one local EU activist, one Labour party and Union activist, and the local MP (Ben Lake, (PC)). All three speeches contained what you might expect – that prorogation is a political ploy to force through a no-deal Brexit. That doing so is an unconscionable assault on Parliamentary Democracy. All of the speakers branched out slightly – the first had things to say about the Welsh and Scottish nationalism. The second touched on a few themes – government attack on unions and civil liberty, the welfare state, poverty, were all part of the statement she was reading. Finally Ben Lake took the microphone, and spoke on the topic of the day. He covered Brexit, he mentioned our current Prime Minister and Government. He gave his view that prorogation might be unstoppable, but that he was going to try – and that this was a cross party issue, where politicians of all stripes would work together.
And there it ended. People drifted away, or stood talking in loose groups. I went home to edit the pictures.
The above is a factual account of the anti-prorogation march in Aberystwyth, Wales on August 31st 2019. All of the events described took place, and were witnessed by me. Where I am drawing on second hand sources I have said so.
Conversations and events are based on my memory which is, of course, fallible. In places I have paraphrased conversations, but the intentions of speech are left unchanged. Chronology is based on timestamped digital pictures, although for reasons of brevity I have not made mention of every twist and turn. Photographs are used to illustrate the text, and no direct link should be drawn between the two unless otherwise stated.
For the purposes of my work I attempt to remain politically neutral, and to comment only on the events I have witnessed
All of the pictures used in this article are my own work, and I retain full copyright to them.