Thousands of retired soldiers protest through London over charging of Soldier F

The ride turned at Trafalgar Square to go down The Mall and past Buckingham Palace. Tourists ignored the Guardsmen outside and shifted their attention to the mass of leather and snarling exhausts heading up Constitution Hill (although The Telegraph can confirm not one of the soldiers fidgeted whilst they were temporarily ignored).At Hyde Park corner groups began to peel off and the ride started to disperse.A bewildered Deliveroo take-away scooter rider, that had somehow become enmeshed in the procession, tried to nudge his way through the swarming pack of Harleys; maroon lions circling a startled deer. Harry Wragg, the organiser of the protest, doubts Soldier F will get a fair trial and envisages many such actions to come. “I think you’ll get a lot more of this,” he said, “and future veterans will lose faith.“Its alright calling out the troops in times of need, but then as soon as it’s over they’re quite happy to prosecute you.” Rolling Thunder heads through central London. April 12, 2019.Credit:Anthony Upton Then on again, into a crowded Parliament Square, crowds thronging the footpath and spilling into the road.Dennis Hutchings, 77, from Cawsand, Cornwall, another veteran due to be tried for murder over events in Northern Ireland two years after Bloody Sunday, saluted as the riders turned up Whitehall towards Downing Street.Lewis Enriquez, 67, from Clapham, whose brother Ellio was injured in the British Army, was on another Harley Davidson. He said it was important to support the veterans as they did a “brilliant job” during their service. Thousands of retired soldiers descended on Parliament on motorbikes to protest at the decision to charge Soldier F over Bloody Sunday.Around 8,000 riders snaked through central London in an organised go-slow protest. Park Lane, one of the busiest roads in the capital, was closed to allow the bikers to form up.Traffic was brought to a halt around Parliament Square and on Westminster and Vauxhall Bridges as the protesters, engines revving constantly, slowly made their way through the city.Soldier F, a former paratrooper in his 70s, is the only soldier being prosecuted over Bloody Sunday. He has been charged with two murders and four attempted murders during the events which took place on January 30, 1972.The show of support, dubbed Rolling Thunder, was arranged mostly on Facebook. Riders started to arrive from 10 o’clock in the morning. Rolling Thunder was thought to have attracted around 8,000 riders. April 12, 2019. A member of the Rolling Thunder ride in support of Soldier F.Credit:Anthony Upton Dion ‘Cass’ Cassidy, from North Wales, said Soldier F did not deserve to be persecuted for doing his job.“Something’s got to be done and we want justice, we want to be heard.“He’s 77 years old, he’s done his time. He can’t be persecuted now, 48 years after. It’s wrong, totally wrong.” A member of the Rolling Thunder ride in support of Soldier F. Dean Cumberpatch, from Lincolnshire, said “it’s a travesty that the government are charging veterans so long after their service”.Another Harley rider, Gavin, from Wolverhampton, agreed and said Soldier F was being used as a scapegoat. “You can’t be given instructions to do something and then be told 40 years later, ‘no that’s wrong’,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”The riders were a mostly mature bunch; in years if not temperament (one patch read ‘I ride too fast to worry about cholesterol’). Some seemed as old as the Royal Enfield bikes beneath them.Many wore embroidered salutes to fallen friends: Jackie, Alan, The Hog. Some displayed their affiliations: to the All Arms Veterans, or the Meridian Chapter among others.Rolling Thunder drifted past Lambeth Palace, sirens and horns startling the smokers outside St Thomas’ hospital.The volume went up outside Parliament. The police marshals, at the head of the procession, allowed the ride to halt briefly outside the Palace of Westminster. British democratic freedom to protest in action. There was much revving of engines and one inhabitant – an MP perhaps, able to influence things? – leaned out of an upstairs window taking pictures. By one o’clock in the afternoon thousands of bikes had taken over the closed south-bound carriageway of Park Lane, adjacent to Hyde Park. Engines were growling and the riders were keen to get going.The head marshal for the event, JT, a former Regimental Sergeant Major in 2 PARA, was striding around with a megaphone, announcing the time of departure.“Half past!” he boomed. “That’s thirteen-thirty hours for the army, just after lunch for the Navy!”  Flags and posters were in abundance, with many Union Jacks and regimental crests on display. Mostly though, the banners consisted of a maroon flag with sky blue Parachute Regiment crest and slogan: ‘I stand with Soldier F’.In a roar, the Rolling Thunder protest started. The Telegraph stuck out a thumb and managed to jump on with Dion Cassidy, astride his Harley Davidson Greycoat.Onlookers were mostly supportive, with many filming the ride on mobile phones. A few had fingers in ears or hands over mouths to protect against the fug of exhaust fumes that drifted slowly through Victoria and over Vauxhall Bridge. Rolling Thunder heads through central London. April 12, 2019. A group of climate change protesters from the ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ demonstration, that had just finished in Parliament Square, stared aghast as mirrored exhaust pipes belched smoke. The ‘Rolling Thunder’ Motorbike protest through central London in support of Soldier F. April 12, 2019. Credit:Anthony Upton The 'Rolling Thunder' Motorbike protest through central London in support of Soldier F. April 12, 2019.  Rolling Thunder was thought to have attracted around 8,000 riders. April 12, 2019.Credit:Anthony Upton Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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