I had hoped I would be joining a massive protest against the bombing of children in Aleppo. But after struggling through the crowds of people taking snaps of Big Ben outside Westminster station, I walked up Whitehall to find maybe only 200 people gathered near Downing Street.
But they were at least from almost every background. Some of them were waving Syrian flags, or wrapped in them, and at one point a group of campaigners circled around someone singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal The World’, before the sound gave way to chanting in Arabic that called for an end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime – meanwhile the steady beat of an Arab drum sounded out along Whitehall.
A protester I spoke to thought the demonstration represented the views of Londoners as a whole. “The people of this city,” he told me, “want … children protected against the cruelty and savagery of war!”
Beyond him, by the gates to Downing Street, a pile of teddy bears made me think of all the children who have lost either their childhoods, or their lives, in the Syrian war. A note in the middle of the heap said: “For my friend’s little children, still in Aleppo, I hope we act to make you safe – x.”
The day after the Downing Street protest, the three-day humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo ended. Since then it has been reported that Russian or Syrian bombs have killed more than 20 children in a school in Hass, 100 km south of Aleppo.