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    Posted February 10, 2013 by
    SimonDifazio
    Location
    Bath, United Kingdom
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The war through your eyes: Iraq 10 years on

    My snapshot of Iraq: A Very British Protest.

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     British photographer SimonDifazio observed the UK's massive anti-Iraq war protest in central London in 2003, taking pictures along the route. He found it a particularly British demonstration. "There was a bizarrely jovial atmosphere, as there often can be when crowds unite against the machine of government, but clearly a serious message was being made," he said. "It was impossible not to be influenced by the feelings of the passionate protesters ... I couldn't help but get caught up in the moment."
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    I was studying for a photography degree at Falmouth College of Art when I first heard about the Iraq war protests in the February of 2003. The government had announced that Saddam was capable of launching WMDs within 45 minutes and feelings were running high nationwide. I've always had a passion for documentary photography and the scheduled protests ticked the 'visual impact' box. I threw the camera kit and a heap of black and white film into my classic Saab, and headed to London in search of some pictures. Damn, I was cool.

    The protest was enormous beyond belief. I don't know what I'd expected but as a student at the far tip of Cornwall i guess it had been easy to feel blithely disconnected from the real world. Arriving in Russell Square that cold Saturday morning, I was struck by the sea of people in front of me. I remember taking a few moments to absorb the shock of the scene in front of me - before I loaded the camera and began shooting.

    There was a bizarrely jovial atmosphere, as there often can be when crowds unite against the machine of government, but clearly a serious message was being made. People from all walks of life - my age, older, younger - were united for a common purpose.

    I've been employed as a cameraman at various political party conferences and G8 summits since then. I've met Blair on several occasions and watched him and his followers change over the years. The anti-war lobby following his every move has grown steadily over that time, and his conviction in having gone to war has remained, seemingly unwavering, throughout that time. It's been fascinating to observe the change in his following and the atmosphere around him as the general feeling in the UK against the war - and its repercussions - has waxed and waned.

    In my own eyes - as an objective observer of the protests - it was impossible not to be influenced by the feelings of the passionate protesters swarming around me, filling every gap, shouting down every silence. I couldn't help but get caught up in the moment. I probably shouted along with them - but only a little.

    And how do I feel about the war, now, ten years on? It's hard to put into words. Yes, perhaps it was contrived to an extent. Perhaps we were chasing after the Americans to keep favour: to keep oil flowing. Maybe Blair really was the b'liar' those protesters were convinced he was, back on that chilly London day.

    But maybe, above all else, we were doing what we, the British, have tried and (mostly) succeeded to do throughout the second half of the twentieth century and beyond. We want a fair society for ourselves. We wish a fair society for others. We may have screwed-up ways of achieving that, but I personally find it difficult to criticise the judgement call to go to war when it was made with the best of intentions. Stiff upper lip 'n all that.





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