by Rashad Ali
Thousands gathered in London to express their feelings of palpable pain, anger, and frustration at the invasion and attempted take over of Ukraine by Putin and his regime. Yet the spirit of defiance, indignation, hope and camaraderie were much more poignant. It is the latter that dominated the will of some 8,000 plus protestors throughout the day. In front of Downing Street with the backdrop of a symbolic Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. This is conservative estimate as there were people coming and going throughout the day.
This was a different atmosphere than many other protests I had attended. Ukrainians were well represented, the chants were led by Ukrainians, and clear-cut demands were made. There was no feeling of political partisanship. People came out as people, not as left or right, nor were they led by professional activists. They had nothing in common with the contorted ideology of the misnamed “Stop the War Coalition”. This was genuinely grass roots.
People waved flags, homemade placards, children’s drawings. The odd anti-Stalinist art here and there. The demands were clear and simple. The obvious ones being stop Russian aggression and stop the war by Russia. Save Ukraine and save Europe. Chants of “Russia go home”, “Putin you are a criminal”, “Defend us in the air so we can fight on the ground”. There was a refreshing clarity and forthrightness.
Spirits were high and the people had pride in their leader, Zelensky. They spoke of their initial scepticism and how he won them over. One placard read: “Putin is a criminal – Zelensky is a hero”. There was hope and defiance in their words. They are convinced they will win, yet implored for our support.
Blockade the Russians; grant them air support; stop their dirty money laundering; bring NATO powers; financially strangle Russia’s assets and economic power.
Surprisingly many of these demands have already come to fruition: Germany, Sweden, Lithuania and even the EU joining the momentum against Russia. No banking, no air space, and weapons from around the globe. Even Putin allies like Orban in Hungary have turned against him. There is peril ahead and lives are being lost, but what you felt among the Ukrainians was what inspired us all in their leader – resolute will.