Protesting the Pope - dates for your diary

The National Secular Society has announced plans to march through London on 18th September to Protest the Pope. Organisers are no doubt hoping they'll be able to make enough noise to drown out Ratzinger's Hyde Park mass. There must be some vuvuzelas left over from the World Cup.

The protest march will assemble at 1pm at Hyde Park Corner – Piccadilly Downslip (full details will be made available nearer the time). It will then proceed through central London and arrive in the vicinity of Parliament Square (details currently being discussed with New Scotland Yard). Please put this date in your diary and make every effort to be there. Spread the news of this event as far as you can. Local groups might consider getting a coach party to come and if you’re coming from outside London and could offer a lift to someone in your area, please let us know and we’ll put you in touch.

A number of other events are planned, including a public meeting at Richmond Library, on Thursday 12 August at 7.30pm. A riposte to the pontiff's plan to speak about education in Twickenham, "just down the road from Richmond", this will launch a campaign against state funding of faith schools and "support a local coalition of associations based in South West London that are organizing protests on the 17th September... Terry Sanderson, Keith Porteous Wood and Peter Tatchell will be speaking." The NSS is also running a mini film festival at Conway Hall 0n 13-16 September featuring a number of documentaries about abuse within the Catholic Church. Also showing is Carlos Carrera's film The Crime of Father Amaro, starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a young priest who - in a nice change - has sex with a woman.

Disappointingly for the anti-pope campaign, Ken Clarke yesterday announced that the government was going to make it more difficult for protesters to have visiting dignitaries arrested. Arresting the Pope - as proposed by Christopher Hitchens and supported by Geoffrey Robertson QC, though as usual Richard Dawkins got the credit - was always a non-starter, as well as a distraction. There will still be much fun to be had. Ratzinger, indeed, is facing a double whammy, with Catholic supporters of women priests planning to festoon London buses with demands that the pope "Ordain Women Now!" at the time of the visit. One of the organisers, quoted in the Guardian, said that "We love the church and don't want to be disruptive" and that "We are very concerned about what is going on in the church at the moment."

As opposed to, like, when?


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