Half a Million take to the Streets: ‘Get us out this Eton Mess!’

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Half a million people took the streets of London on Saturday in one of the biggest marches since ‘Stop the War’ in 2003.

The TUC organised march against the Governments public sector cuts saw all walks of life come out to protest. The Government is planning to remove the deficit in 4 years by cutting and reducing huge chunks of the public sector, which will damage the lives of many.

I travelled on one of the 8 coaches to leave Portsmouth with members of the NASUWT (a teachers Union) and joined the thousands already congregated at Embankment at 11:15. By this point many had already reached Hyde Park three miles away.  Around me were parents with their young children as well as trade unionists and members of political parties and the feeling of frustration was palpable. This was a march for people’s livelihoods and futures. We needed to be there, rather than having a duty to be.

Members of many trade unions were present in huge numbers. T-shirts, banners and even steel and samba bands were present, which helped create the carnival feeling of the day.  People were dancing, waving flags and cheering, creating as much noise as possible and make themselves heard.  The TUC had suggested that uniformed workers attend the demonstration in their uniforms and many nurses and fire-fighters and others did so.   I spoke to one member of a contingent of the Fire Brigades Union who had travelled down from Manchester that morning.  He said that he was protesting ‘on two levels; my own job, obviously, but also against the cuts in general’.  This was not a march just about the personal impact for each protester but for the common good.

I also spoke to a nurse, Jackie, resting by the side of the road in Piccadilly who was amazed and gladdened at the positive atmosphere of the day.   She was protesting with Unison but had bumped into parents from her daughter’s school that had never been on a demonstration before. They felt that fighting these cuts was vital.

Jackie also voiced her opinion regarding the paintballing attack on the Ritz, which she saw as an explosion of the frustration felt buy some.  Though many have condemned the vandalism I think that there was something rather tasteful about the subtle colours, which looked like they needed names such as baby’s breath and duck egg. Windows were smashed and anarchist symbols and other slogans scrawled but relatively little damage over all. Fortnum and Mason’s upper floor and balcony was also occupied.  At which point the police’s light touch vanished and riot gear appeared, but even then it was only a small number.

I spoke to one of police guarding the Ritz who told me at that point he believed the march to be a million strong, although the news and papers now say that numbers were “more than a quarter of a million” to about “half a million”.  It really felt like the voice of the people was being raised.  Mostly the slogans were earnest and angry – ‘education cuts don’t heal’  and I saw fewer witty ones but there was some humour – my favourite being ‘get us out of this Eton mess!’.

On leaving London I walked back through Trafalgar Square where hundreds of people had gathered for a sit in. The atmosphere of carnival continued with boom boxes playing and people dancing and singing around the fountain. No matter what the number clearly this march was huge and for me an important factor was that so many groups of society were represented.

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Discussion6 Comments

  1. avatar

    To say £5 Million of mindless criminal vandalism is “relatively little damage” shows the intellectual level of the average protestor in London last weekend. I don’t recall the civil rights or apartheid movements (as Ed Miliband likened the march to) resorting to covering their faces with hoods in cowardice and going on destruction sprees of department stores and hotels.

    Fouad Al-Noor
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    there were 250, 000 people in that march
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12871357

    Only a few hundred damaged the banks and some high class buildings.

    Even if we say 1000 people damages that is 0.4% of the people demonstrating. Just by the laws of probability you WILL get some people who are stupid enough to damage buildings (probably because they are angry, which is obviously understandable).

    The media ALWAYS talks about the “violence” and “Damage” that people cause, but of course they don’t talk about WHY they are violent and cause damage. Yes, in the end its the tax payers that will have to pay the bill, but I think that’s a small price to pay when almost every other public service is being cut.

    Peter Apps
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    I don’t think the two campaigns are comparable but you are wrong to think that anti-apartheid campaigners didn’t damage property. Nelson Mandela was the head of the ANC’s armed wing which led a bombing campaign in South Africa in the 1960s. “When we knew that we going to start on 16 December 1961, to blast the symbolic places of apartheid, like pass offices, native magistrates courts, and things like that … post offices and … the government offices. But we were to do it in such a way that nobody would be hurt, nobody would get killed.”
    Lets not airbrush history.

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    Having read Mandela’s book I recall he and his fellow freedom fighters fought the cause through peaceful means first and ONLY after that had failed did they resort to an armed struggle. They did not set out on the road to conflict unlike the, admittedly minor, fraction that descended on London trying to ignite some phoney class war.
    Legitimate, peaceful protests are more likely to be listened to than the out of touch minority who decide to trash poorly picked targets; Fortnum and Mason is majority owned by a charietable trust that is one of the biggest private donators of funds to the chariety sector in this country. One can only conclude that as long as these anarchists continue to wreck and destroy the media will contine to give them the (negative) attention they deserve sabotaging the voices of others.

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    lol @ comparing this to any kind of civil rights movement. really hammers home the spoiled sense of entitlement by those protesters who either resorted to mindless violence OR those advocating “no cuts at all”. March for the alternative? How ironic that no alternative has been put out there.

    Peter Apps
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    Actually an alternative was put out by the march organisers. Here it is http://marchforthealternative.org.uk/why-were-marching/.

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