Protesting the Pope

A fantastic day! Read the official campaign’s page for links to speeches etc.

from @toxicpath

The sun shone, the peace was kept and we all had a good sing & shout. Getting people to sing along to ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ whilst we played our kazoos and wotnot was, so to speak, divine.

For a feel, have a look at this video diary, listen to some interesting PodDelusion audio (also the iPadio snippets at the end) and here’s my Flickr set.

What an amazing bunch of people – seriously, I don’t gush about the wonderful nature of human beings very often but having been surrounded by ~12,000 (according to the Met) lovely individuals, today I feel I have to.

Atheists, humanists, catholics, muslims, hindus, agnostics – just about all faiths and none, I reckon (mostly none, of course, but plenty of decent ‘believers’ also).

The only thing that shocked me was some of the pro-pope lot shortly after the march started. At first we couldn’t really hear what they were saying, it was just to the tune of various football chants. But then it became clear.

There the dead go! *clapclap clap clap clap* There the dead go!!

I really couldn’t believe that children and adults alike were standing there shouting that at us. It was truly horrible, many of us looked at each other with disbelief, but we didn’t have much to return except the peace-Vs and a bit of “use condoms!”.

from Leah van Zyl

That bit of unpleasantness aside, we had some chants – a few were amusing

from @edforchoice

Get your rosaries off my ovaries!

Hands off my eggs, Benedict!

And some more standard, to-the-point

Gay/trans/women’s/children’s rights are human rights!

No state visit!

We don’t want your homophobia, nope to the pope!

Faith schools indoctrinate!

See some (minimal) BBC coverage here – can’t believe I missed Ian McKellen!!

The speakers were excellent, when we finally arrived at Downing Street. All the unedited audio is here on PodDelusion.

BHA chief exec Andrew Copson was surprised and very pleased with the turnout (rightly so!).

Also from Leah – brilliant!

Some very moving speeches from survivors of childhood abuse at the hands of the clergy (Sue Cox for example – see/hear us ‘singing’ at the beginning too!). They expressed their thanks for everyone showing up and making them realise how many people do care about them, having been told for so many years that they should keep quiet, then that they were lying.

Peter Tatchell did his thing and spelled out why we were all there.

Richard Dawkins got big cheers from the crowd and was actually rather amusing! Link to best Youtube vid so far.

Hear Johann Hari’s speech here.

Ben Goldacre’s usual sobering AIDS-kills-2 million-every-year stat had all the blown-up condoms bobbing around above the crowd. Listen to a bit  o’ Ben here.

Also on the stage was Geoffrey Robertson, author of The Case of the Pope – an exposé of all the monstrous activity he’s uncovered in the Catholic church.

One of the most horrific things was to hear of  the many women in Brazil and other countries turned straight to the authorities when they arrive at hospitals seriously injured after enduring a backstreet abortion out of desperation. Instantly criminalised due to draconian laws based on religious beliefs, stripping them of their rights; reproductive rights and basic human rights.

Father Bernard Lynch told of his anguish, witnissing fellow gay Catholics losing hope and dying from AIDS following Benedict’s vile words and policies.

Maryam Namazie spoke for the One Law For All campaign and the crowd voiced their support for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who may be stoned due to Iran’s oppressive islamic regime.

After it all finished, the crowds dispersed quickly and quietly, the roadsweepers did a great job clearing up (but most people I saw were carefully keeping their litter to themselves or finding a bin – not easy in London!) after us and we went to sit in a pub.

from @brumplum

It was fantastic to meet some Facebook friends in person, to sing with the BHA choir (thanks to everyone who joined in!!), bump into old friends and make new ones.

I had a great day and I hope we’ve made a bit of a difference somehow.



Here are the PodDelusion snippets from James & Liz:

Belivers And Protesters (and James’ experience of trying to get some interviews from pope tourists – not too good)

Speakin To John, Who’s Going To See The Pope

Finally Found Some Protesters At #protestthepope (featuring yours truly! Eating my breakfast/lunch)


Another Interview

Signs And Banners

Shame On The Pope!

Aftermath (recorded Saturday)


My recordings:

My new favourite video here.

Also search ‘pope’ on John’s youtube channel for a few excellent videos


Honestly we’re all quite pissed off about this, I think. The estimates for attending are consistently under-reported, many of the interviews and footage taken seem not to have materialised… it’s all a bit fishy, but also unsurprising I suppose.

Here’s a good riposte to tall the people saying the protest was anti-catholic (who have missed the point entirely). The NSS has done a nice write-up with photos.

Video from ITN, not sure what actually made it on the TV news though. Press Association coverage.

New York Times article isn’t too bad. The BBC coverage has been fairly predictably rubbish so far.


Buzzfeed’s funniest signs!

See my friend Delia’s blog, Tanya’s photo blog, Hampshire Skeptics, Jonathan Warren‘s site and the BHA’s facebook album for some great pics.

The BHA has also set up a Flickr pool for the event!

On Flickr, fab pics from: Joe, Colin Grey, maddington, Stormy little teacup, pug50, Cat Burton, Stephen Darlington, Loz, Zeitgeist images, Greg Gerrard, Andrew Brown.

20 thoughts on “Protesting the Pope

  1. Just wonderful. If only I didn’t live so far away. I wish I’d been able to join in.

    As for those who are proud to wish us dead, let both camps know who has the moral high ground!

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  4. Great shots, please continue posting them.

    Shots like this force people to “see” that many people are unhappy with the continued suffering caused by the catholic church and that they are motivated to come out and protest.

  5. northernmemeplex

    There the dead go! *clapclap clap clap clap* There the dead go!!

    Is that what they were shouting? – I couldn’t make it out.

    Favourite sign was “Romani Ite Domum.” which gains credence for quoting Monty Python aptly.

    Another I saw, which I rather liked: “I’d rather be paying for a duck-house.”

    1. Yep I liked both of those too! I didn’t know the ‘Romans go home’ was from Python actually 🙂

      I also love:
      ‘no sects please, we’re British!’
      ‘F*** THE POPE… but use a condom!’
      [picture of Aleksandr the meerkat] Sinfuls!
      ‘Abstinence makes the church grow fondlers’

      and other such gems!

        1. No problem!
          I’ve been trying to add all the flickr albums I came across, but considering the number of people there, with cameras, I think it’s probably unrealistic to chronicle them all 😛

          Everyone free to post a link to their album below!

    1. Faith schools.
      They are free to discriminate (against pupils and teachers alike) based on faith. This promotes segregation and ill feeling between faiths.
      We need to be teaching a broad religious education, about faiths – not that one is absolutely true and all the rest are false.

      People can get their indoctrinating religious teachings from churches outside of school if they wish; schools should be for education only, education that is balanced, factual and non-discriminatory.

      Of course this is not exclusive to catholicism but it’s one of the main players.

      1. stephenemoss

        There is nothing that raises my heckles more than faith schools. When I appoint a new post-doc, lecturer, professor, whatever, it is (rightly) against the law to discriminate on religious grounds. It is state-sponsored hypocrisy of the worst kind to permit the manifestation of religious bigotry when it comes to teaching children.

  6. Richard W (Sx)

    Yup, what a great day! I haven’t been on a march like that since the early 80s, againsts Thatcher’s NHS cuts. What terrific, brilliant, funny people were on the march – and nice to meet you, Noodlemaz!

    The comic highlight for me was the chef appearing on the restaurant balcony doing an impromptu impression of the pope. The massive chorus of humorous booing turned to wild cheering as he stripped off his white coat and pointy hat, threw them to the balcony floor, and used his crook (a broom) to beat them with – simply brilliant!

    After reaching Downing St., Andrew Copson (BHA Ch. Exec.) gave a rousing opening speech, which set the bar for the following excellent speakers.

    The BBC coverage was apalling, however I note that for part of yesterday (Sunday) the BBC’s “Thousands Protest Against Pope” link was the number 1 most-shared news page of the day.

    Thanks for this round-up!

    1. Yes! I saw a bit of video of that somewhere. I think that must have been after we went past, I didn’t see!
      Nice to meet you too; quite amazing that I did find a few people from facebook – yourself, a photographer friend (Chris!) and Guyon who came all the way from Norway – commitment!!

      Also managed to bump into a couple of people from uni I haven’t seen in years. Sad to miss Delia and Leah but I’m sure we’ll all be at something again in the future.

      I think it was so telling that we were smiling and having fun, being friendly with everyone, whereas the supporters/anti-protest lot were generally standoffish, sometimes extremely rude and offensive and genuinely angry-looking.

      It really made us feel like we were on the ‘right’ side!!

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  8. Response from BBC complaints dept:

    Reference CAS-308316

    Thank you for your feedback regarding the BBC News Channel’s coverage of protests against the Pope’s visit to London on 18 September.

    We appreciate some viewers felt we did not afford enough coverage to the protest in question.

    As I’m sure you can understand the 18th was a very busy news day with regards to unfolding events during the Pope’s visit. We did our utmost to ensure that all aspects of the visit were reported on, including any subsequent protests and reaction. Accordingly we broadcast live footage of the protests in central London, hearing speeches from Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society and Geoffrey Robinson QC.

    News bulletins later that night, notably Allan Little’s report during the News at Ten, also made reference to the protest, supplemented by extensive coverage and reaction online at such links as:

    We felt the amount of coverage we gave to the protests was appropriate to the editorial merit of the story given the other stories unfolding during the day and we were sorry to hear you felt otherwise.

    Please be assured your concerns were forwarded to senior Editors at the BBC News Channel.

    Kind Regards

    Mark Roberts

    1. I used the Pope Protest websites automatic “email your MP” widget – and I got a reply two weeks ago.

      Anyone interested in reading what he said, and I’ll type it all out – but not tonight…. tired little fingers…

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