London, UK: As funerals are planned and obit writers work overtime, Brixton mourns Maggie
For me, the news came via the radio and only seconds later, Faceboook had erupted: “Ding dong, the witch is dead”. The words danced, jubilantly across the screen. Margaret Thatcher, at 87, had passed away.
In Brixton, in the dark aftermath of a day hinting at spring, hundreds had gathered in the shadow of the Ritzy cinema. Those at the crowd’s fringes seemed tentative in their moral uncertainty. “I feel kind of guilty being here”, one girl confessed from behind dark eyelashes.
The air was cold, the atmosphere electric. Swerving through the clusters of people, heading towards the centre, I saw the feelings of guilt fritter away. Close to the drum circle, the sense of triumph was infectious. The conductor whipped both band and audience into a frenzied mob. Stirred by the rhythm, they shouted to the sky; “MAGGIE, MAGGIE, MAGGIE; DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!”
Dreadlocks dived through space as their owners lurched from one foot to another, clutching cans of beer or pints of milk. Impromptu screams escaped rogue chanters; “RATBAG FUCKING TORIES”, a man shouted from behind me, his face cloaked in beard.
Out of nowhere, a blue hooded figure appeared. “Happy Thatcher’s Dead Day!” he proclaimed, pleased with himself to christen what he referred to as the “new national holiday”. His voice raw from shouting, he insisted on hugging to mark the occasion yet there was one thing ruining his good mood; “The problem is I’m an atheist” he told us, “so I can’t really celebrate her rotting in hell.”
A banner declaring “The Bitch is Dead” was draped across a tree. The smell of pot clung to the night time, and a crackling sound system played from a far corner. Around it could be found a spattering of shirtless youths, their political engagement questionable as they launched themselves into one another, accompanied by a soundtrack of The Prodigy.
The event was what Twitter referred to as “the ugly face of the left” and at first glance, the premise to celebrate the death of an old lady, a mother and a grandmother seemed to rest somewhere between blind apathy and a complete absence of human compassion.
Yet, in the presence of this specific London gathering it becomes obvious that these people congregate to protest against the whitewashing of wrong that often occurs in respectful silence. Although many in attendance were too young to experience the effect her policies had directly, they live in her legacy; an age of individualism.
“AN-TI-CA-PI-LI-STA!” the crowd screams, their clenched fists raised against the backdrop of Brixton.