Mary McCarthy – Battle of Grosvenor Square (October 27, 1968)


“It was very English to call it ‘the Demo,’ and no wonder the pet name stuck, conjuring up a specter of ‘demos,’ the people (sometimes pejorative), but on the other hand ‘democracy’ (good), which withstood the test of the demonstration. Small family-style states are fond of making up diminutives, whose effect is to diminish, domesticate; compare ‘the telly’ to big gross American ‘TV.’ Yet the peculiar fact about the October 27 dual march was that it was organized and directed by aliens in competition with each other: Tariq Ali, a young mustached Pakistani, leading the way to Downing Street, and Abhimanya Manchanda, a middle-aged clean-shaven Indian, to Grosvenor Square. For the English, these rival pied pipers were difficult to swallow, let alone assimilate. A well-fleshed, plaintive humorist of a police sergeant sought to explain his obscure sense of injury relating to the Demo, which in principle he did not exactly oppose but saw as a conflict of rights: the right to push your pram, undisturbed, down the Strand on Sunday and the right, slightly less hallowed, to march. We were standing in a pub near a central London police station on the eve of the demonstration. … Then another. Outside, cops were racing out of the police station, pulling on their coats, clapping on their helmets, and boarding police wagons. The sergeant hastily left his pint of lager on the bar. We left our drinks too and ran. A large force of alarmed bobbies was converging on Westminster Abbey, where some pink-cheeked, tow-headed schoolboys from Manchester, wearing red and white scarves, in town for the football match, had been apprehended on the sidewalk; their average age was maybe fourteen. A flash had come through that some unknown persons were breaking into the Abbey; possibly one or two of the little Manchester rooters had tried to climb the fence. In a minute, the police, embarrassed, were returning to base. In preparation for the Demo, they had been sleeping in at the police station, with a barrel of beer, occupying it, in short, like the students on guard at the London School of Economics. Both sides were nervous; gloomy, and gay. It worried me that with all that beer the police might have hangovers the next day, which would make them irritable. The sergeant complained that the pigeons under the eaves of his ‘dormitory’ had been keeping him awake. In the LSE, which we had just visited, the only drinks being served were coffee and tea. As at the Sorbonne last May and June, you could buy apples and sandwiches. Some students were already asleep in the corridors, but most were just milling about or reading the posters and slogans on the walls, many of which seemed to be copied from the French slogans. …”
NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: Volume 11, Number 11
Guardian: Goodbye to Grosvenor Square – Tariq Ali
YouTube: Vietnam Protesters Clash with Police in Grosvenor Square, London (1968)


Essex May1968 – My first demo: the Battle of Grosvenor Square

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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1 Response to Mary McCarthy – Battle of Grosvenor Square (October 27, 1968)

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