Half a million march against the cuts

Posted on March 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm,

A photo of the marchYesterday, I was at the TUC-organised march against the cuts. It was a fairly standard demonstration – you march from A to B, and then when you get to B, there are speeches. For the most part, there was something of a carnival atmosphere, with samba bands, brass bands, and choirs amongst the marchers. The numbers were almost certainly in the region of half a million (that’s what the people on stage were consistently saying, and that accords with what I saw). We started out on the embankment, and marched to Hyde Park. The march started at 12:00 (though the section where I started didn’t move for at least half an hour), and when the speeches finished at 4:30, there were still people coming into the park and plenty who had given up on getting to the destination.

picture of the march
One thing that struck me about the marchers was the diversity of people there – in addition to strong representation from any union you can think of, and the various left-wing parties (Greens, various socialist parties, and local branches of Labour), there were a wide variety of community and campaign groups. There was ethnic diversity (I noticed whites, blacks asians, hispanics), and every age group from kids up to pensioners.

The speeches were fairly good, coming from unions and a wide variety campaign groups (I really wasn’t expecting Friends of the Earth on the platform, for example). I missed the one politician (Ed Milliband, selected on the basis of being the official leader of the opposition – presumably if Labour had won the last election and cut like they promised, the TUC would have asked David Cameron), but from the clip on the BBC website he was somewhat uninspired, and I’m told by people who were there that he was booed. From the speeches I heard, pretty much all the policy suggestions were things that were in the Green Party Manifesto – perhaps they should have asked Caroline Lucas to speak, as she’s clearly the MP most in tune with the anti-cuts movement.

placard from the demonstration saying cut Cameron and Clegg
There were also a number of interesting placards. There were several people offering “Free Hugs”, one telling a joke (Why did Nick Clegg Cross the Road? Because he said he wouldn’t), people wearing tabards labelling them as “economic advisor”, and the bizarre “eat the rich”. Sadly, no pictures of these because I’ve mislaid the cable to put them into my computer – all the pictures are somebody else’s.

Now all of this is, no doubt, at odds with what many of you would have heard in the news. From what I’ve seen, there was a small amount of property damage carried out by people wearing the uniform of the black bloc anarchists – which 99.99% of the marchers would happily condemn. There was also a peaceful occupation of Fortnum and Masons and other Oxford Street stores by UKUncut (I’m told that some of the demonstrators are still in police cells for this). There was also some kind of violent confrontation between the Police and some people occupying Trafalgar Square into the night. I wasn’t there for any of this, but here are a few reports by people who were, to put the other side of the story:

A quick note on police attacking unarmed protestors

a longer piece, which includes a report that the police initiated the Trafalgar Square violence

And, finally, some proof that violent extremism isn’t the preserve of the left, there’s a right-wing journalist who writes for the Times, the Telegraph, and the Spectator, who tweets that the government should use Ghaddafi-style tactics against the protestors

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