World Social Forum 2009: Marching for justice

27 January 2009 - 2:22pm

We collected the banner from the hotel and packed to leave, completely unaware of the shock that was to follow. We had heard about Amazonian torrential rain, but no description could have possibly prepared us for what we were about to experience. We put on our packamacs and headed out to the street to join the colourful march heading down the main central avenue in Belem, grateful that our banner was made from plastic! All of us had been to quite a few demonstrations in our lives, but the mixture of heat, epic rainstorm, samba baterias and social movement contingents from around the world made for a unique and exhilarating experience. We struggled to keep the banner straight and our cameras and note books from getting soaked but managed to join in with the atmosphere. Within a few minutes we had given up on any chance of staying dry ourselves and quickly realised why everyone else was not wearing jeans or layers!

As we marched we began to notice that the four of us with our single War on Want banner were proving relatively popular. We still don't really understand why so many people wanted to take pictures with us and our banner. We think it is partly because of our unique War on Want keffiya-trim Palestine t-shirts and partly because our 'fighting global poverty' slogan is in English, a language mostly absent from the march. Whatever the reason we were happy that War on Want is so popular and drawing such a positive response!

We walked down with the parade for a couple of hours and then stood by the side of the road and watched the march go past for what must have been over an hour. We couldn't believe just how many people there were. We were also surprised by the fact that although there were a few riot police officers protecting the media centre and a couple of banks, there was almost no police presence. If anything, the police seemed to serve the sole function of protecting a few institutions rather than having any sort of crowd control role.


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