Mar 28th, 2011 at 1:52 pm by susie
“If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy”. — UKUncut
I think this is a conversation worth having, because sooner or later, this Uncut movement will continue to spread across the Atlantic and reach critical mass here. This is about yesterday’s march in London:
On Saturday, around half a million people took action in response to the coalition government’s public sector spending cuts. This is how I witnessed it.
The largest group disrupted traffic across a large section of central London, as they marched from Embankment to Hyde Park, chanting their slogans, banging pots and pans and blowing whistles and vuvuzelas. The cost of the damage caused by people littering and tramping across the grass in one of the country’s best-loved public parks has yet to be assessed.
A much smaller group, perhaps of around a thousand, staged sit-ins at a number of West End shops in the early afternoon. This was followed by a rally in Soho Square where campaigners were entertained by stand-up comedians and a well-known newspaper columnist. They then staged a final, peaceful sit-in, en masse, in the upmarket grocery store Fortnum and Mason. These people were arrested on leaving the shop, kept in the cells overnight and charged with aggravated trespass. (This illiberal law was introduced in 1994 as part of the widely-opposed Criminal Justice Bill, and can be applied to anyone who “trespasses on land with the intention of disrupting, or intimidating those taking part in, lawful activity taking place on that or adjacent land.”)
A smaller group still (the BBC’s Paul Mason estimates 600) smashed the windows of and threw paint at shops and banks in the West End. From what I saw, there was no serious attempt to arrest those causing the damage.
There are two lessons that I think the anti-cuts movement (by which I mean anyone who turned out on Saturday) should take from this. First, there has been a great deal of sneering among advocates of “direct action” in the past few months at “a to b marches”. I hope Saturday’s march, which left me feeling exhilarated and hopeful for the prospect of building a sustained opposition to the cuts, proves that bringing together a huge cross-section of society valid and necessary action. Of course it doesn’t change anything in isolation, but just think about how many people returned to their workplaces today, sharing their experiences with colleagues, realising that they’re not alone in their fight, and with any luck, thinking about what to do next.
Second, there is a narrative developing among some sections of the left that UK Uncut wrecked Saturday’s protest by diverting attention from the rally in Hyde Park and are somehow responsible for the “anarchist violence” focused on by the majority of the media. This plays into the hands of the right and needs to be stopped.
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