About 300 Londoners came out last night for a spot of snogging in a show of support for two men allegedly ejected from the John Snow pub in Soho for kissing while on a date.
James Bull and Jonathan Williams had been enjoying each other's company on Thursday night until a little lip-locking ensued – which “wasn't anything indecent”, they claim – and they were subsequently given their marching orders by the landlady "for being obscene”.
News of the booting-out soon reached the Interwebs and before the pair had even had time to digest their unfortunate dose of humiliation, a “kiss-in” had been organized at the pub with an expected gathering of about 700 people.
None too happy about the prospect of a snog for the masses gracing the establishment, the landlady understandably shut up shop and locked the doors.
But that didn't stop a colourful crew of all shapes and vices from coming together at 7 pm for a slew of passionate embraces, all of which were lapped up on cue by the trigger-happy snappers. The BBC called it a "mass same-sex kiss-in", but there was plenty of girl-on-guy action as well.
Confused tourists gathered round enquiring about which celebrity the crowds were oggling, but all seemed pleasantly surprised when they heard the story of the kiss-a-thon.
There were smiles from ear to pierced ear and the nature of the event was largely peaceful, bar a touch of unnecessary aggression directed towards befuddled drivers trying to make their way along the road, including one foreign woman who had two children in the back.
There was, however, one incident that threatened to sour the occasion. A rather dozy-looking crew of young Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members rocked up, complete with placards and a megaphone, and immediately got down to childish chanting and other tomfoolery, as they have a habit of doing at every single protest around the country.
The one-protest-fits-all ethic has been remarkably resilient this year and has seen the SWP shamelessly piggyback on student marches and demos for Libya, Egypt and more. The rabble at last night's shindig were a scruffy, silly bunch who seemed intent on being melodic in one way or another.
The only chants I heard were calls for unity and an end to homophobia. Other people reported howls for Libya and, indeed, the festival organizer – he who shall not be named – took particular issue with the SWP being there, so much so that he confronted one of the rapscallions and threatened to “pound his f—king face in”, reportedly after "polite" requests to stop chanting about foreign lands.
At this point I was in front of the organizer, filming, but I was mostly behind his words, although the threat of violence was somewhat against the spirit of what had otherwise been a great rally. What confused me here was his persistently referring to himself as an “anarchist” who owned the demo. I was unsure how anarchy could fit in with the whole show of support for a couple of blokes who got kicked out of a pub for kissing.
The SWP loons wouldn't give up, however, and they carried on with their dull games, well aware that they were getting beneath the skin of the protest organizer. A further confrontation escalated into a little argy-bargy before the organizer spat in the face of a particularly loathsome bearded man.
I suppose we could commend the demo organizer for not resorting to throwing a swift jab, but I can never condone spitting in the face of another human being, no matter how heated a situation becomes.
Thank goodness a copper was there to step in and lead the burly gentleman away for some cool-down time. The smarmy SWPs would have pushed and pushed until the large man's self-control was lost, and that wouldn't have been much fun for anyone.
I uploaded my photos and videos from the protest last night and within a short time I'd been messaged by the protest organiser asking me to take the videos down. At the time of writing I've yet to take them down. (Note: My vids are private now, things are getting weird). I think many people would be supportive of the organizer putting the little terrors in their place, but the spitting incident was a step too far and the threat of violence was uncalled for.
It also happened in public, witnessed by dozens of people, photographed and filmed by some. Plus, the organizer appeared on the BBC this morning, while are plenty of photos and a fair amount of footage of him at the event. I don't wish to cause trouble, but as a member of the media (I have a press card, my archived stories are here, I'm currently studying my MA) I don't particularly like the idea of self-censorship.
I haven't tried to cast anyone in a negative light – except for the SWP, so please forgive that small indulgence on my blog – but facts and footage speak for themselves.
Negativity aside, I thought the two Js handled themselves with an air of class last night, allowing others to enjoy the limelight while humbly posing for photos and talking to the press. I came away with maximum respect for both men.
The lack of an apology from the landlady has left many among the Twitterverse perturbed, but there are of course two sides to every story. The BBC quoted Daniel Griffiths, ex-pres of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, as saying, "If he doesn't like the house rules, don't use the pub.”
But can a landlady ever justify taking such offence to a kiss? At another Soho pub last night I did my best to draw attention to my girlfriend and I via the art off tender embracing, but nobody so much as fluttered a luscious eyelash.
I am, of course, more than willing to give the protest organizer a platform here to comment on the ugliness last night and I can be contacted here if need be.
The saga continues.
Addendum: I'm even keen to hear from SWP supporters who might be able to offer an insight into what their deal is.