Yesterday's Wave climate change protest attracted 20,000 if you believe the police estimates, or more than 50,000 according to the organisers. I think the reality was somewhere in between. It was undoubtedly large, noisy, good humoured and brought together people who were far from typical protesters: I had to laugh at the sight of Trotskyist newspaper sellers forlornly trying to peddle their wares to people marching with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or carrying Cooperative placards.
But unlike the last big push by mainstream charities and the churches to mobilise, the threat of climate chaos is too complex an issue to reduce to a slogan as straightforward as 'Drop the Debt'. Walking alongside one enthusiastic group of protesters, it was evident that one of their number who had a megaphone was struggling to think up chants. "What do we want? Carbon reduction!" It doesn't exactly trip off the tongue and the best reactions seemed to come from simply shouting, "make some noise!" The Wave was, in all honesty, fairly apolitical, more a call for 'something to be done' without a clear message about what exactly protesters want from next week's Copenhagen summit. It would be churlish not to see the potential for a new mass movement for climate action, but vagueness enabled Gordon Brown to attempt to appropriate the message by giving the Wave his endorsement and even the Liberal Democrats managed to turn up at a march, with a partisan banner proclaiming themselves the only party with the 'courage' to combat climate change. They were embarrassing more than anything else.
The anti-capitalist bloc failed to attract more than a dozen people at Berkeley Square, which hardly bodes well for the wilder predictions being made about direct action in Copenhagen, but the 'irony bloc' was fun and far outnumbered the three friendless climate change deniers with their 'Climategate' banner on the plinth at Nelson's Column.
When my friends and I arrived at Parliament at 3pm, the police seemed to have become somewhat confused by the numbers milling around and as the text message came through from Climate Camp to head over to Jubilee Gardens, we were unable to cross over Westminster Bridge and instead funnelled towards the coach pick-up point. By the time we made it to Hungerford Bridge and across to the South Bank, people were already starting to head off to the real location of the Cop Out Camp Out - Trafalgar Square.
After stopping off for a beer, I headed over to the Climate Camp, which by this time was settling in for the night. Pop-up tents, yurts and a marquee had appeared around the Norwegian Christmas tree in the square and the rain had started to fall, but the police presence was minimal. I wasn't able to stay - I had a surprise birthday party to attend in Ilford - but it must have been a damp night. I was soaked to the skin by the time I cycled home.
I'm heading back into town soon to see what is happening at Climate Camp today. I'll post photos from the Wave later - meanwhile, see Climate Camp's Flickr photostream for pictures from yesterday evening.