Protest the Pope rally sees thousands march through London's streets
As many as 20,000 secularists marched through the streets of London to protest against the state visit of Pope Benedict XV1.
The phenomenal turnout – achieved without advertising or any expensive promotion – consisted of a good humoured crowd of people from all parts of the country, protesting about a range of issues.
As the large procession snaked through Piccadilly Circus, chants of "Women's rights are human rights" and "Gay rights are human rights" rang out. Banners and placards proclaimed the need to protect children not priests, to make condoms freely available in the fight against AIDS and to protect women from the rampages of the Vatican's intolerant teachings. "Get your rosaries off my ovaries" was a particularly popular chant.
On arrival in Whitehall, speakers included Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society as well as NSS honorary associate Richard Dawkins (who was the star attraction and got the loudest cheer with a rousing speech). Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC spoke of the pope's undoubted guilt in covering up child abuse.
Peter Tatchell spoke of the Vatican's disregard for human rights and abuse victims spoke out with passion about the need to force the Vatican to clean up its act and take action rather than issuing meaningless apologies.
It was a day when secularists answered back, when the streets overflowed with people who were proud to be secularists and who are not cowed by Ratzinger's insults.
Terry Sanderson commented: "This day was maybe a turning point for the secularist movement in Britain, when at last people brought their worries about intrusive religion on to the streets. Let us hope that the passion we saw today will translate into an invigorated and expanded secular movement in Britain and the Government will see that any attempt to force religion into our lives will be fiercely resisted."
Special thanks go to Marco Tranchino, whose determination to get this march off the ground was only matched by his energy for actually pulling it off.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Video courtesy of Sanduron Video Production