The street was cleared as best as it could be, and all the officers in the area were on standby on the side walk and the major junctions. The protesters would come through any moment now.
Captain Singh was in charge of the preparations and she’d made sure to work with the representatives of the SPCA and other bodies to ensure a quiet and safe march. Besides, in her experience you didn’t mess with these animal rights people; Some of the ones she’d met were clearly three nuts short of a squirrel farm. She chuckled to herself at her phrasing. It didn’t make sense, but neither had the retinue of officious weirdos who’d walked into her office over the last month to discuss this. All for a half-hour event.
A young inspector walked up to her, and looked on at the empty street with her.
“Captain, can’t we be out threatening bad guys or something? I’ll even take signal duty in rush our traffic over this.”
She placed an understanding hand on his shoulder and proceeded to do her final check down the street. A few minutes later her walkie-talkie buzzed a warning, so she rushed back to the growing head of the march. It was beginning.
They started off quietly enough, a bunch of youngsters standing around in groups, holding bad chart-paper picket signs and staring at their phones to make sure everyone they knew online would know how much of an activist they were. Selfies were being taken in every direction as the crowd grew. Some participants even walked away after that, the important part of the afternoon having been accomplished. The ones who stayed began a slow march.
One of the lead marchers held a side of a large banner that read “Animals are a superior being” and in her other hand she was waving around a symbolic white flag.
No one noticed the little street cat trailing behind the head of the column. She’d just been caught in the crowd while trying to cross the street and got spooked by the large crowd. When she realised she was not in danger, she looked around curiously at the chanting humans and walked along. Seemed like the thing to do.
Captain Singh noticed the cat when she reached the head of the march and the curious feline seemed to be attracted to the waving white flag held by the lead marcher. The cat kept trying to paw the furling white fabric and eventually even the wielder of the flag noticed it. She seemed more irritated than amused at the coincidental animal protester and waved the flag higher to keep it out of its reach.
The cat leapt higher and that big banner in front of the protesters was starting to waver and ripple all over the place. The young woman protester was now distraught trying to shake off the enthusiastic feline, and the cat was even more energised at trying to pluck the white flag from the air.
In exasperation, the girl swung the flag down at her speechless assailant, and there was loud intake of breath from the crowd as the kitty screeched and was enveloped in the flag. A struggle ensued, the head banner was dropped and the girl wrestled with the flag pole while the flag was a bundle of feline fury on the tar.
In a flash, the fabric was rent from the pole, and enveloped in white the cat ran helter skelter in the marching crowd. Shouts of surprise went up as the cat bumped into people’s legs and banners went down and people fell into others. The sloganeering was slowly replaced by sounds of alarm as the animal continued to wreck havoc among the protesters.
Desperately clawing herself up a large cloth banner halfway down the street, the cat, with its white cape flaying behind it in chase, leapt on to the heads of startled protesters, hung on to flapping pieces of clothing and scratched at people’s hands and faces as they tried to defend themselves against the lightning fast banshee with the sharp claws.
It was fast turning into a near-stampede situation when the cat finally made its way up a post box on the side walk and stood there, its cape nemesis wrapped around its neck, tail trashing the air, and fur standing on end as it surveyed the crowd in challenge of who would try to attack it next.
There was a moment of stillness as Captain Singh came on to the scene and all parties stood back in instinctive defence. The protesters had fallen everywhere, banners covering struggling marchers, picket signs broken and torn as stray bits of coloured paper fluttered down the street.
At the head of the march was a pile of limbs where people had stumbled into each other and the large banner in front. Almost on top, the lead protester lay flat on her back distraught and frazzled, slowly chanting to herself, “I’m allergic to cats.”
Singh walked slowly to the post box, showing the cat her hands and easing towards her. The cat appeared to calm down and let her extend her arm and gave her fingers a lick.
She took the protesting cat in her arms and undid the knotted white flag from around her neck, motioning to her stunned troops to help the protesters to their feet.
Walking back to her squad van, her new friend licking her paws in the crook of her arm, Singh sighed.
“The commissioner is going to love this report,” she said absentmindedly to the cat, and in its habitual superior way, it seemed to agree.