Around 500 marched through east London today, Saturday, in protest at the commercialisation and militarisation of the Olympic games.
Protesters assembled at noon in Mile End Park. The march went past the Bow Quarter block of flats, where the army has stationed missiles on the roof despite protests from local people.
Soldiers on the roof of the building looked down on the demonstration as protesters chanted, “Hey ho, Seb Coe, get your missiles out of Bow!”
Many of those on the march were there to protest against specific corporate sponsors for the games. Julie, one of the demonstrators, carried a banner targeting oil giant BP.
“The spirit of the Olympics is right but the commercialisation corrupts it,” she told Socialist Worker. “BP’s sponsorship is just ‘greenwashing’—they want us to forget about their climate crimes.”
Bridget was there to protest against Olympics sponsor Dow Chemical, which owns Union Carbide—the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal disaster when a chemical leak killed thousands.
“It’s such a symbol of the corporatisation of the Olympics,” she said. “Dow and other corporate sponsors are responsible for some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses in the world.”
Others were there to protest at the effect of the Olympics on the city. Newham resident Chris Gwyntopher talked about the impact on housing in the capital.
“I’m concerned that rents have gone up,” he said. “People here are finding it difficult to get anywhere decent to rent that they can afford.
“Part of the Olympics deal was that east London would get more jobs and money. But instead it’s just been an opportunity for corporations to sell their wares and promote their logos.”
The protest, organised by the Counter Olympics Network, ended with a rally at Wennington Green in Bow addressed by speakers including left wing Labour MP John McDonnell.
One of the speakers was Melanie from Critical Mass, the monthly mass cycle ride through London. Police kettled Critical Mass on Friday night, arresting dozens of cyclists and imposing draconian bail conditions on them.
“The authorities want to stamp out dissent,” she told the rally. “But in a democracy we should be able to challenge them.”