Posts Tagged ‘public services’

People’s Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

Monday, June 20th, 2022

People’s Assembly & Class War Against Austerity – Saturday 20th June 2015 saw a massive march through London from Bank to Parliament Square in the People’s Assembly End Austerity march against the savage and destructive cuts to the NHS, the welfare state, education and public services.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

The march was supported by groups from across the centre and left, and my pictures show Clapton Ultras, CND, the Green Party, Labour MP Dianne Abbott, Focus E15, Left Unity, FRFI, People’s March for the NHS, Netpol, Socialist Worker, Global Women’s Strike, Union branches, and others on the march.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

Class War was missing. They were calling for an end to A to B marches to rallies and called for direct action, diverting several hundred from the march to support a squatted pub at the Elephant & Castle which Foxtons want to open as an estate agent. Had I heard about it in time I might have followed, but instead I went to photograph a Class War group holding banners on a footway above the march.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

They showed several banners, including a new version of one that police had seized (and then lost) showing political leaders, as well as another that police were then charging Lisa McKenzie for displaying with rows of graveyard crosses extending to the far distance and the message ‘We have found new homes for the rich‘, along with the Lucy Parsons banner with her message ‘We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.’

Two of Class War’s candidates from the previous month’s General Election were also there, Lisa and Adam Clifford, their Westminster candidate, today wearing a top with fake exposed breasts and holding a fairly lifelike looking baby.

Adam invites people to feel his breasts

The protest was massive, filling across the wide street and taking well over an hour to pass Class War, many raising fists and shouting in solidarity, clapping and otherwise showing approval, with just a few shaking their heads or trying hard to ignore it, though this was difficult, especially when they were letting off flares which sent blue smoke across the march. The organisers claimed 250,000 marched though my rough estimate was perhaps a little less than half this. The organisers claimed 250,000 marched though my rough estimate was perhaps a little less than half this.

Global women’s strike

I went down to street level and took many more pictures of the marchers going past, some with Class War visible in the background.

RMT banner with John Reid (left) and Steve Hedley (centre right)

I watched as around 30 police gathered behind Class War and thought they were about to take action. But charging the group on a wall ten foot above the street would have been highly dangerous for both officers and protesters, and after some lengthy discussions between several senior officers the police rapidly moved away.

Class War discuss how to continue their day in the Olde London

Class War joined in at the end of the march before leaving it to search for a pub, but few City pubs open at the weekends when the area is largely deserted. Eventually the found the Olde London on Ludgate Hill, and went inside, with a large group of police waiting for them outside as they relaxed and then planned further action.

Police followed Class War at a discreet distance as they made their way towards Westminster, rushing forward and forming a line to protect the Savoy Hotel as Class War stopped to protest, blocking the entrance road for a few minutes.

Eventually there were some rather heated arguments as police threatened them with arrest and slowly forced them away. They grabbed one man who had tried to stop a taxi entering, and when a taxi driver got out of his cab and threatened to assault the protesters they seemed far more interested in protecting him from the protesters than in taking any action over his illegal threats.

A woman argues with Adam Clifford at Downing St

Eventually the protesters moved away and on to Whitehall, followed by several police vans. Here they met a sound system and stopped to dance in the road for a while before going on to protest outside the gates to Downing St – and to throw a smoke flare over them. Here there was more dancing and a few short speeches and some of the marchers who had made it to the rally in Parliament Square came back to join them. Eventually Class War rolled up their banners and went off to another pub, telling me they would continue their protests later – but I’d had enough and went home.

Much more on the day on My London diary:
End Austerity Now at Bank
Class War and End Austerity Now
Class War at the Savoy
Class War in Whitehall


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Cuts, Yemen, Shopping Problem & Police Violence

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Back in 2009 we had a Labour government, but public services were still under threat and public sector jobs being cut. The euphoria with which many had greeted the Labour victory in 1997 to the theme music of “Things Can Only Get Better” had long evaporated, thanks to the country being dragged against its will into a illegal war which had ended with Iraq in chaos and the failure to reverse or ameliorate disastrous privatisations and the attack on social housing.

New Labour had also proved themselves inept in the huge expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, PFI, which gave a continuing huge windfall to the private sector and left public bodies, particularly parts of the NHS, with huge debts. The financial crisis in which hit stock markets around the world in September and October 2008 was a final straw, and while the actions of prime minister Gordon Brown may have helped saved the banks this came at enormous cost.

Government cuts were felt keenly in North London, where there were massive job losses including those of 550 mainly support workers from London Metropolitan University, 500 civil servants from Archway tower and more at City University, where adult education is under threat. On Saturday 23 May, 2009 around 500 met in Higbbury Fields for a march to a rally at Archway to defend jobs, services and education Among the mainly trade union speakers at the rally was just one local MP, Jeremy Corbyn.

From the rally I took the Northern line to Charing Cross and walked down Whitehall to Downing St. Protesting on the pavement opposite were Yemenis from the Southern Democratic Assembly. Yemen has been a split country for years, with two civil wars in the 1980s as well as the current ongoing war. Southern Yemen and North Yemen had agreed in principle to unite in 1972, and did so in 1990, but the Southern Yemenis revolted in 1994, accusing the government of grabbing land and property and of human rights abuses. Their protest in 2009 was calling for an end to the repression and military occupation by the North and for the release of jailed Southern leaders. In 1994 and now, the situation is complicated both by religious differences – Sunni and Shia – and by the interventions of a wide range of foreign powers – with often some strange bedfellows. The current was is of course led by Saudi Arabia, whose see it as a fight against the regional Shia power, Iran.

Opposite, on the pavement in front of the security gates to Downing St, I photographed a performance by the Reverend Billy and his ‘Life After Shopping’ Gospel choir from New York who were in London on their 2009 UK Shopocalypse Tour. Clearly the police didn’t quite now how to handle the holy activists, and the officer who stopped the Reverend to question him failed to make much progress – other than being diagnosed by Billy as having a “shopping problem.”

Like me, the Rev Billy and his team from the Church of Life After Shopping were on their way to the National Demonstration against Police Violence in London organised by the United Campaign Against Police Violence, set up following the G20 demonstration in London in which Ian Tomlinson, a man not taking part in the demonstration, was assaulted by and killed by a police officer.

Prominent among those taking part were members of two families of men who were killed in Brixton Police Station, Ricky Bishop and Sean Rigg. Ricky Bishop, a 25 year old black man died after being detained and brought into the police station in 2001. Sean Rigg, also black – like the majority of those who have died in custody – was taken into Brixton police station in August 2008 and within hours this fit 40 year old was dead. Police issued a number of misleading statements – as they did around the death of Ian Tomlinson, and failed to make a timely investigation.

Gradually over the years, dedicated work, led by his sister Marcia led to an inquest verdict ‘that the police had used “unsuitable and unnecessary force” on Rigg, that officers failed to uphold his basic rights and that the failings of the police “more than minimally” contributed to his death’. Further pressure by the campaign resulted in an IPCC report and eventual request of three officers. The CPS decided to drop the all charges against two of them, while the third was charged with perjury, though only after the Rigg family had forced a review. Despite the officer accepting he had given false evidence, a jury acquitted him. Further pressure led to an independent review of the IPCC investigation which ‘concluded that the IPCC committed a series of major blunders and that there had been “inappropriate conduct” by the Police Federation of England and Wales.’ (More details on Wikipedia). There have been several thousand deaths in police custody, prisons or other secure institutions in the last 50 years but only one officer brought to justice for the killings – convicted of manslaughter in 1986.

Police kept a close eye on the protesters and formed a line to protect Downing St, but otherwise acted reasonably until the protest held a solemn ceremony outside the police headquarters at New Scotland Yard on Victoria St, linking hands and holding a silence in memory of those who have died. This was rudely and provocatively interrupted by an woman officer sitting inside a police van blasting out a warning from her chief over the loudspeakers. Presumably as intended this produced an angry reaction from the crowd, and for a few seconds it seemed likely would provoke violence and lead to arrests, but those leading the event quietened the crowd and the ceremony continued, ending with the release of a large cloud of black balloons in memory of the dead.

Demonstration against Police Violence
Rev Billy Performs at Downing St
Southern Yemenis Demonstrate
March to Defend Jobs, Services & Education


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.