Subject: For All Nails #51e: Victoria's Secret (Part 5)
3 April 1973
The fallen sign swirled in the wind at Victoria Madoka's
She knew what it was even before she looked at it; an
invitation to tomorrow's demonstration. The signs seemed
to go up as fast as the police could take them down,
calling the black people of Nairobi to leave their jobs
and take to the streets. Calling them to demonstrate for
The very thought felt strange to Madoka. When had _she_
become the cause? If the case against her were dismissed,
how would that make black Victorians any more equal? What
unjust laws would it repeal?
There were black people being arrested even now, for
putting up signs like the one that lay at her feet. They
would no doubt be tried and convicted, and they would no
doubt be sentenced to longer prison terms than she was
facing. Where were the demonstrations for them? Was
their freedom worth less than hers?
_What is the VNC trying to accomplish?_ The organization
had never cared much for black citizens - even those who,
like Madoka, represented them in court. To the VNC,
blacks who had chosen citizenship over struggle were
little better than traitors. Now, though, they were
taking to the streets for one - and they were pulling out
all the stops.
The demonstration had been called for Wednesday, the
middle of the work week, and it would wind through
Nairobi's main commercial district. No doubt the VNC
intended to teach the whites how much the city depended
on its black secretaries and clerks, and how much its
business would be disrupted if they were on the streets
instead of their jobs. Oh, yes, it would teach them
that - but it would also scare them, and frightened
people don't make concessions.
_Maybe that's what they want._ The VNC had always been
dissatisfied with its lack of support among the citizens
and second-class blacks. Maybe this demonstration was a
message for _them_ - a message that all the elections in
the world couldn't change things, and that only
Lessons like that weren't often learned. Many other
revolutionary movements had tried to provoke repression
in order to sway the middle classes to their side, and
they'd usually been only half-successful. They nearly
always succeeded in provoking the repression - and the
middle class nearly always concurred in it, for fear of
those lower than they. [FN1]
There had been demonstrations in Victoria before, even
riots, but none of them had produced anything good.
Neither would this one.
Victoria Madoka would not be at the demonstration. She
was due in court, to represent one of the people who had
been arrested for putting up signs, and she didn't intend
him to go to gaol because his advocate was absent.
_He_ was the cause. She was not.
4 April 1973
There may have been twenty thousand people on the street,
or there may have been thirty. The demonstrators spilled
from Victoria Avenue, in the heart of Nairobi's business
district, onto the neighboring streets, and horns blared
as traffic struggled to find its way around them.
Armed riot police were everywhere, but thus far they had
done nothing more than mutter curses and glower at the
protesters. The demonstration was quite illegal, but the
police were under orders to minimize the disruption to
business, and the chaos that would result from violent
suppression would be much greater than that caused by the
march itself. Without saying a word to each other, the
VNC and the police seemed to have reached an understanding;
they would stay on the main road, and the police would
leave them alone. The police intelligence analysts were
on the rooftops with their binoculars and cameras marking
out the leaders, but that reckoning would come later.
Then they reached Empire Square.
Nairobi was a planned city of broad, tree-lined avenues,
designed by colonists as a showcase of the promise and
progress of a new century. The center of the city,
surrounded by public buildings built in the Treasury
style [FN2], was a half-kilometer-wide square that
enclosed a public park. At the center of the park was a
reflecting pool that surrounded a statue of Queen
Victoria. In the original city plan, the plaza had been
named Victoria Square - but, as luck would have it, it
was finished in the same year that Victoria won its
independence as part of the United Empire. [FN3] Despite
war and privation, it remained the showplace of the city,
and on any ordinary day it was filled with citizens
enjoying a respite from business.
This was not an ordinary day.
There were others already in the square when the marchers
entered - police, but also a mostly-white crowd of
counter-demonstrators. Most of them were unemployed
immigrants from the Gold Republics, and many were drunk.
As the demonstrators marched on, they shouted racial
epithets and threw eggs; the police watched it happen as
silently as they watched the march.
Someone threw a bottle.
Later, the government would blame the demonstrators for
provoking the incident, but nobody would ever be sure
which side the bottle had come from. The only certain
thing was what happened next; the two sides charged each
other in a blur of fists and impromptu clubs. The
counter-demonstrators, outnumbered, reeled backward,
falling back behind the police line. The pressure of the
crowd continued to push the demonstrators forward. Some
of them began overturning squad cars and attacking the
The police panicked.
Somewhere, a gunshot was heard, and then another. A
demonstrator fell to the ground, clutching his chest. He
was trampled by the crowd, and died where he fell.
The machine gun nest in front of the Parliament building
The demonstrators began to scatter, running frantically
away from the hail of bullets. The crowd behind them
blocked their way. Some were cut down by machine-gun
fire, others were crushed. In minutes, the square was
littered with broken signs and broken bodies.
The gunshots continued until very late in the day.
4 April 1973
From where Victoria Madoka stood at the window of her
apartment, she thought she could see the fires burning.
Behind her, the vitavision played unnoticed, with the
news announcer estimating more than two hundred dead. An
hour ago, Prime Minister Patten had promised stern
measures to deter future riots, and vowed to bring to
justice the black revolutionaries who had started the
violence. Scenes from the square played over and over as
the newscaster described the horror.
_They died in my name._ The demonstrators had been there
for _her_, and it was for her that they had faced the
guns. They had died for a false cause, a distraction, a
single case that meant nothing to the future of black
_Damn them._ She couldn't deny the marchers' courage,
but this day had accomplished nothing. It would only
make things worse, even for those who had not lost their
mothers or sons. _Or husbands..._
She had believed in demonstrations once, when she was at
university. She had met her husband at one, and their
romance had blossomed at rallies and political meetings.
That was before the pass law, and the march of '59...
That had also led to Empire Square, and that was where it
had gone wrong. She had been holding Michael's hand when
the bullet hit him; she had seen him ripped from her and
stretched lifeless in the street.
She had been married six months. She had never married
How many others had been widowed today? How many
children had lost their parents because of her?
_They died in my name. In my name..._
[FN1] Thanks to Chris Williams for this concept.
[FN2] The Treasury style draws its name from the Royal
Egyptian Treasury building designed by James MacPherson
in 1877, and was commonly used for public buildings in
British colonies between 1880 and 1920. It is
characterized by low-lying buildings in light tropical
shades of tan or white, open courtyards or atria,
entrances curved outward from the main wall, and domed
roofs. In many cases, Treasury buildings have pillared
entrance halls leading out of the main building. Think
Cairo Opera House.
[FN3] 1906, according to Sobel.
Jonathan I. Edelstein in Kew Gardens, NY
"It's been a lot of fun." -- in memoriam, Alison Brooks