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Half a Million March Against Cuts in London

By 03/29/2011September 9th, 2014All Posts, Andrea's Posts, London

Saturday’s London march was called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and it was absolutely brilliant. In spite of the miles walked I was still bouncing up and down when a handful of us arrived at the Westminster Arms to toast the end of the day with the some of the folks from the Bakerloo RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) branch. We only heard last meeting that they’d affiliated to Lambeth Save Our Services, my radical home now that I’m away from SAJE, so it was grand to get to know some of them better. But that’s jumping ahead, so back to the beginning.

The call was for everyone to meet centrally, but like other more community based anti-cuts groups, we figured we’d be able to draw more people to the full march if we called a meeting point closer to home and marched from there. In spite of the TUC disowning the feeder marches, ours was a tremendous success for all the trials and tribulations. The police reported we had 5,000 people there, so you know that we had more. I’m going to miss people from this list because there were so many groups there, so apologies! Southwark SOS, Lewisham Anticuts Alliance, BARAC, Colacor, all the South London union branches, pensioners, teachers, No Cuts for Kids…and more. Amazing.

What else did we have? The best trojan horse I have ever seen, labeled the TUC Armed Wing. You can tell that’s a gorgeous irony given they were against even the mild radicalism of a feeder march. It was a stallion actually, as Ali swears it was anatomically correct. I’m just sorry, as I know you are, that I can’t provide photographic proof.

Some brilliant people unknown had been busy getting up some activist art on the billboards along the way, I loved the one transformed into a giant legal bust card, (you can see the one featuring David Cameron here); some one has been doing some good work!

As we crossed Westminster Bridge (the police warned us against it but could not stop us) we could see the hundreds of thousands of people slowly moving towards Hyde Park, and a handful of tourists who hadn’t seen the news apparently.

I was holding the other end of this Colacor (Latin American Colation Against the Cuts) banner for much of the way with a companero from the Latin American Workers’ Association, and originator of my favourite chant of the day: Esto no es marcha, esto es protesta, carajo! (roughly this is not a march, it is a protest damn it). As you can see, the banner cramped our photography style just a little, so I handed the camera off to Paris for a quick shot from on high when we joined the main march:

I’m afraid I never saw Paris again. But the crush of people was glorious and I did see and dearly love the full brass band

The fire brigade from the Isle of Wight with their drum, the folks with the Robin Hood hats, the balloons and the gorgeous banners from all over the country. Most of all I  just loved the beauty and immensity of it all:

This last shot I took in the late afternoon as we were leaving after a much needed rest in Hyde Park. I can’t even remember what time it was, but it must have been getting on for 5 pm and people were still streaming into Hyde Park as you can see. We thanked our stars for taking Westminster Bridge and joining the march nearer the beginning than the end. They’re saying half a million people in total but I can’t believe it wasn’t more:

I also got up to Oxford Street for a bit, getting there just too late for UK Uncut‘s action against Topshop, but I did join the revolutionary milling about for a while. Click here to read just why Topshop is a target, and why I personally was quite happy to see this:

Central London was an amazing place this weekend, almost empty but for a handful of confused shoppers, protesters, and riot police.

Just check out the nonchalance of London towards riot police! It was immensely surreal, but surely not business as usual. I don’t think it has been business as usual for a long while, I think that is something we should congratulate ourselves on.

UK Uncut went on to occupy Fortnum and Mason’s as well (they’re known as the purveyors of inordinately expensive foods to the aristocracy and anyone who wants to be aristocracy and can afford it. They also don’t pay their taxes). Just after I had grown tired of milling about, sadly. You can read the press release here, and a very moving eyewitness account from a new activist who was there. There’s also plenty of live video footage to contradict the reports in the press of violence and mayhem. The police caused the damage, but, you know, it’s Fortnum and Mason’s after all. As my favourite tweet of the day says: @simonblackwell: According to police, £15,000 worth of damage inside Fortnum & Mason. Someone knocked over a jar of olives.

The quote from London’s Mayor Boris Johnson’s autobiography on his Bullingdon Club days (for Bullingdon Club think a posher Skull and Crossbones and you have the idea) gives some good perspective: “We got drunk, trashed the Ritz & then went down Piccadilly to loot a few items from Fortnums”. Or so says twitter.

I did see the Starbucks get completely smashed up on Picadilly, heard about the banks and the hotels. The reactions to ‘The Violence’ have been varied, and horribly played up and channeled into the absurd binary of ‘for or against’ by the media. I hesitate in mentioning it at all as I can’t quite decide whether it deserves much more attention (of the thoughtful kind), or no attention at all.

I personally think the violence really at issue here is that of the government against the people. It’s in every job cut and every service lost, and the job cuts run into the tens of thousands. For those of us with personal experience of the immense pain that comes from lay offs and the destruction they can cause to people’s sense of self, their families, and their communities . . . there is no way to stand by and do nothing. And the loss of community and the quality of our everyday lives represented by the closing of libraries, day centres for the elderly, playgrounds, after-school clubs? Dismantling the welfare state is nothing if not intensely violent.

This is why Lambeth SOS will continue to fight tooth and nail against all of it, from the sackings of RMT reps Arwyn Thomas and Eamonn Lynch, to the cuts to the NHS, to our libraries and librarians, park rangers, public housing and … well, just tell me who and what isn’t getting cut.

So now? Now we go back to work to save our jobs and our services.

[This is an exclusive variation on a theme, the first of which was posted on the Lambeth SOS website]

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