On 15th March 2003 York Against the War organised a demonstration that began in the Eye of York and marched to outside the Minister, where a rally was held. In assembling the demonstration in the Eye of York, York Against the War was part of a tradition that included The March Against Yorkshire Slavery – a campaign for a 10 hour working day – promoted by the symbolism of royal and judicial authority of the area.
Chris Fuller, one of the York Against the War demonstration organisers, remembers the choice to begin the demonstration in the Eye of York:
‘We were just hugely ambitious all the time. We had had a series of smaller protests and had set up a Fishergate Against the War group. The Fishergate Against the War group went to York Against the War meeting and said we need to call a York demonstration. We did sort of knew when the war was going to happen. Because the resolutions had been to the UN and it was going through parliament. We wanted to start the demonstration in the Eye of York and end at the Minister. We decided to start it in the Eye of York because we knew it was going to be big’.
The film of the day and the gallery of images shows how full the Eye of York was and the snaking of the demonstration out beyond Clifford’s Tower. Chris Fuller remembers a bit of an awkward moment when he was asked to estimate the number of protesters to the press. Chris said 3000 but later heard the police had estimated 5000. Usually, to say the least, the estimates are the other way around!
Following the start of the war a series of impromptu protests happen. On 17th March led by School children. Chris remembers, the school student protests started at St Helen’s Square, occupied Lendal Bridge and then to round about onto Ouse Bridge. ‘There were lots of students from Millthorpe, All Saints and Fulford’. That week after war began every evening 100s of people would gather in a huge circle in St Samson’s Square before deciding to what to do and leading to informal demonstrations and road occupations. The film also shows the Peace Camp that was set up near the Millennium Bridge.
The Eye of York has been used for many subsequent demonstrations as Graham Martin remembers in this film recorded for the first phase of My Castle Gateway.
The implications of this for the Open Brief for the future of the Castle and Eye of York are to ensure that the Eye of York can remain a place of assembly and a place which enables acts of civic and democratic involvement.