Public sector strikes see 25,000 strong demonstration in London

Pic: Andy O'Donnell

Yesterday, 30 unions including Unite, UCU and Unison took to the streets across the UK for a 24-hour public sector strike.

Involving up to two million people, the national action became the largest of its kind seen in the country for almost 40 years.

Approximately 25,000 people joined the London demonstrations.

Last night a Cabinet Office minister branded the strike “inappropriate, untimely and irresponsible” as schools, hospitals, courts, emergency services and border sercurity were disrupted.

EastLondonLines’ reporters joined pickets across London to bring you up to the minute information live throughout the day. Immersed in strike action across Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lewisham, we reported live from the centre of every major picket, and from splinter disturbances in Dalston, Haymarket, Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus. Click here to see photos of the demonstration.

Read below for our live blog cataloguing the day’s events, combining local interviews, photos and national updates, to create a full account of the November 30 strike in London.

19.55

Today’s strike appears to be drawing to a close, as pockets of resistance in central London are dispersed by police, and the official strike reaches its conclusion.

Keep checking EastLondonLines for a summary of today’s events, gathering information from all the major trade unions on how successful today’s day of action was, and finding out where the contentious issue of pensions reform goes from here.

19.35

Some videos recorded earlier of the march, and of police clearing Lewisham Way this morning.

The Metropolitan Police have also just made their final live video broadcast of the day – Commander Simon Bray says: “On the whole it’s been a good day for policing across the capital.”

19.27


19.09

An official statement has just come in from the Met Police.

As of 6.40pm, there have been 75 arrests in the capital today. A further 21 arrests have been made for the unauthorised entry into Panton House for a variety of offences including burglary, aggravated trespass, criminal damage, and assault on police.

The 37 people who were arrested in Hackney earlier today for breach of the peace have been re-arrested for affray.

Criminal offences include: breach of the peace, offensive weapons, assault on police, drugs, criminal damage, obstruction, section 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Public Order Act.

19.08

The Cabinet Office has just released information saying that the number of people who took part in today’s strike action was lower than predicted by unions. Around 900,000 health, civil service, and local government workers walked out. However, there are no final figures as of yet for the number of teachers involved.

19.06

The Intercontinental Hotel ‘Banker’s Award’s currently taking place has been organised by the Financial Times.

For more information, read this press release.

One protestor, David Horsefield, who currently resides at the St. Paul’s Occupy LSX camp, was arrested outside the hotel for attempting to enter the building. Police said he was in breach of section 6 of the public order act for failing to remove a scarf covering his face.

18.56

After the arrest of 30 people during the strike solidarity demonstration in Dalston between 10am and 11am today, a protest is being held in Hackney at 8pm at Stoke Newington station in support of the arrested people, most of whom are still remanded in police custody.

18.54

Met Police have said that all road closures in and around London have now been opened.


18.51

UK Uncut have tweeted that the Panton House occupation is not linked to their campaign, but was in fact organised by Occupy London.

Clarification on the matter can be found here.

18.47

The Hackney Squat Eviction Network is reporting the arrival of police outside a squat at 17 Swinton street, near Kings Cross.

The urgent press release reads: “Police are here asking to open the door. We’re not aware why. They refuse to give us any more information. Please come show your support.”

18.42

Men in tuxedos are now arriving at the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, ahead of the banker’s awards due to take place at 7pm.

Sports cars and valets demonstrate a striking cultural clash between activities on Park Lane and demonstrations being kettled just minutes away in Haymarket.

Our reporter at the scene is now inside the hotel where the dinner is taking place. Updates to follow.

A Bugati sports car parked outside Park Lane Hotel pic: Sophie Zeldin O'Neil

18.30

ITV’s Carly Watson and others report less police at Haymarket.

However reports of violence in Leicester Square – @Heardinlondon says:

18.14

Alex Frederico, Met Police Press Bureau officer, told EastLondonLines that there were 5,000 police out in London today.

Our reporter asked him if the Met police expected trouble at Park Lane tonight. He replied: “no comment”.

18.08

EastLondonLines has heard that the Daily Mail deleted a poll they had conducted during the last 24 hours to see what percentage of people in the UK supported, or disagreed with, today’s strike.

The poll revealed that 84% of people supported the strike action.

Further checks have revealed that the poll is indeed missing from the Mail Online site this evening.

 

17.51

EastLondonLines have discovered that a Bankers Awards are taking place on Park Lane at 7pm, explaining the large police presence at the Intercontinental Hotel as reported in the last few minutes.

Our reporter on the ground, Sophie Zeldin O’Neil, says that: “people are slowly trickling in. The police presence is incredibly strong.”

We are attempting to get an interview with a press officer on the scene now.

Intercontinental Hotel, Park Lane pic: Sophie O'Neil

17.48

Haymarket police presence is still exceptionally high pic: Chris J Hardley (@ChrisJHardley)

17.42

We can confirm that the ten police vehicles seen speeding towards West London in the last twenty minutes were heading towards Park Lane Intercontinental Hotel where a bankers dinner is scheduled to be held tonight.

EastLondonLines can report that the area outside the hotel is mobbed with police vans, as they continue to arrive.

Haymarket kettle appears to be dispersing gradually as police allow people to leave the kettle. The number of police present at the scene is still high.

17.37

The LED police sign at Haymarket currently reads “Please be patient”.

A gallery of photographs from today’s events can be seen here.

17.36

Video by Eastlondonlines reporter Raziye Akkoc of police and protestors at Charing Cross earlier this afternoon.

Video of street theatre by protestors earlier:

17.33

EastLondonLines reporters say that in the last two minutes they have seen more than ten police vehicles, including panda cars and riot vans, heading west from Haymarket.

17.30


17.27

New figures say that 62% of state schools in England have been closed today.

A further 16% are only partially open.

17.24

Channel 4 have released an aerial view video of the ‘storm on Haymarket’ taken by helicopter.

Watch the video here.

17.16

People at Haymarket are complaining that the peaceful protest has been hijacked by “rioters”.

EastLondonLines reporters have clarified that the Panton House building has not been occupied. Although protesters entered the building, they were swiftly removed by police and the kettle was formed outside the building.

17.13

A campaign group made up of people in clown costume are scheduling a ‘mass hug’ for protesters being released from the Haymarket kettle.

Police have large electronic signs promoting the message: “You are now being released”.

17.11

Weary protesters kettled at Haymarket pic: Raziye Akkoc

17.08

Police kettle in action at Haymarket pic: Raziye Akkoc

17.02

Reports say that some of the protesters who got on to the roof of Panton House, thought to be from Uk Uncut, have been arrested.

Police at the scene have said that people inside the Haymarket kettle will soon be released.

17.01

Unconfirmed reports that kettles that began nearly two hours ago at Trafalgar Square are still in place and crowds are getting larger, rather than dispersing.

17.00

Police vans line the streets surrounding Picadilly Circus and Haymarket pic: Raziye Akkoc

16.57

Another coach had arrived at Haymarket in order to ship arrested people to police stations and cells.

Rumours claim that there have been 52 arrests so far during demonstrations today, with a majority of these taking place at 10am clashes in Dalston, where up to 30 people are thought to have been arrested.

16.55

Incredible photographs are coming through twitter as police clash with protesters at Haymarket. Sunset has brought with it flares, fire, and smoke.

See the photos by Demotix here

16.53

Between 100 and 300 people are currently being kettled at Haymarket, the street between Pall Mall and Piccadilly Circus.

16.52

Leicester Square kettled pic: @HeardinLondon

Leicester Square Kettle pic: Tom Coope (@CoopeTP)

 

16.50

BBC report smoke and flare as riot police try to evacuate Haymarket.

16.48

Reports are coming in that Haymarket is being completely shut down as police attempt to control the area. Our reporters have been asked to vacate Haymarket Cafe by Police. Other businesses are reported to be forced to close.

The Metro has reported that a number of protesters from UK Uncut have stormed an office in London’s West End. The majority were held back by police but some got inside and went onto the roof, where officers moved in to clear them.

Read the full Metro article here.

Suhail Lehal, writer for the Socialist Worker

“This is the biggest strike since 1926, but we need something much, much bigger”.

16.46

London Ambulance service have reported that there have been 30 per cent more 999 calls than usual.

42% of Ambulance service are on strike.

16.44

Colin Fancy, Father of two, former Goldsmiths student.

“I’m here at the protest with my two sons today. I protested at the miner’s strike in the 80s. Today won’t acheive anything, but it’s a start.”

16.42

OccupyLSX tweet that Territorial Support Group police forces are storming the newly occupied Panton House at Haymarket. Legal observers are unable to enter the building.


16.41

Footage just in of the Charing X Kettle. Police are seen to push protesters. Watch the video here.

16.40

Video footage just received of Cameron and Clegg “the butchers of pension reform”.

Watch the footage here.

16.30

We are now hearing reports that the offices  outside FTSE Executive at Picadilly Circus have been occupied and arrests have been made.

Police fear a breach of the peace and have announced that they will “release occupiers shortly”.

16.23

OccupyLSX report they have occupied the headquarters of Xstrata, whose CEO Mick Davies is the UK’s highest-earning FTSE 100 executive, at Panton House on Haymarket. About 20 protestors have been detained, with hundreds more kettled outside.

Police “snatch squads” being sent in, they say.

16.19

Pictures of police action at Charing Cross and Haymarket.

Protestors kettled at Charing Cross pic: Aaron Lee

 

Police outside Panton House pic: Ali Osman (@immorali)

16.09

Reports of possible arrests and kettling of protestors at Charing Cross – more details soon.

15.56

Occupy LSX have congregated at at Picadilly Circus. Reports are coming in from the ground saying that some police have been seen pushing protesters. We are expecting photos or video soon.

15.55

Apologies for the technical difficulties earlier. Our live coverage resumes now!

14.58

Trafalgar Square filled with riot police. Currently much of the square is blocked with high-boards.

14.00

Some quotes from the speakers at the rally:

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka: “You should all be proud of yourselves – they should be ashamed of themselves” (@RazMazz)

Ken Livingstone: “The gold-plated pension I’m talking about is the one MPs have voted for themselves.” (@raycharlz)

13.07

Dalston update: Radio reports from LBC London say that approximately 30 people have been detained at Dalston today, for breach of the peace.

Police presence at the Hackney protest was unusually high following an assault on a female PCSO earlier in the day.

 

Large police presence at Dalston this morning pic: Will Coldwell

 

 

13.03

Lecturers, workers, and students from Goldsmiths College, Lewisham have now arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields to join with the mass march from Embankment.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields pic: Kous Coovee

 

 

Street theatre pic: Kous Coovee

 

12.55

Read the police statement on the Hackney arrests here.

12.49

More pictures from our reporters at Lincoln’s Inn Fields:

 

Strikers gather at Lincoln’s Inn Fields pic: Claire Shaw

 

Marchers on Ludgate Hill:

 

Marchers on Ludgate Hill pic: Raziye Akkoc

 

12.32

Reports on Twitter confirm our coverage of Dalston arrests as picking off protesters “one by one”.

However, new reports coming in say that, although the CLR James picket and Hackney Town Hall pickets are slowly dispersing, protesters are upset with the police response to the demonstration, claiming it to be “heavy handed”, “incredibly aggressive” and “disgusting”.

Police have been arresting people at the scene non-stop between 10 and 11am.

A local resident, aged 25, who wishes to remain anonymous, told EastLondonLines: “At the riots the police weren’t even this heavy handed. This is a peaceful demonstration.”

 

A sign at the Dalston demonstration pic: Will Coldwell

 

12.21

Strikers including Croydon UCU members at Charing Cross station:

Strikers at Charing Cross

Strikers at Charing Cross pic: Sarah Whitehead

 

Unite workers marching on Bread Street:

Strikers on Bread Street pic: Aaron Lee

 

 

12.14

Occupy London have just launched a live utream feed of the demonstration at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Click here to watch.

12.11

Crowds at CLR James Library in Hackney have said that approximately 50 people been arrested at the protest in Dalston so far.

EastLondonLines are also hearing unconfirmed rumours that there was “an assault on a policeman earlier this morning in Hackney, justifying the huge police presence” there.

Police dogs are barking noisily, and over 50 police continue to arrest the final few remaining in the small kettle outside the library.

Rumours circulating that there have been up to 50 arrests in Dalston this morning.
 

Police dogs in Dalston pic: Gabrielle Tanguay (@gabie_t)

 

 

A man in a suit is arrested in Dalston and lead to the coach:
 

Dalston arrests pic: Will Coldwell

 

 

11.59

Arrests at CLR James in Hackney:

Dalston arrests pic: Will Coldwell

 

 

Dalston arrests pic: Will Coldwell

 

11.51

Trevor Mitchell, 59, Wallington

Trevor Mitchell


“I’m here supporting my wife. She’s in the NHS and I used to be a union shop steward. It’s like back to the future, this type of situation. There are no comparators for public and private sector pensions and these people know that.

This is an intolerable sitution. Some did not want to strike because of the industry they work in. We have a situation where many people feel they can’t go on strike because they can’t afford to lose a day’s wages.

Nobody wants to go on strike. In the end there has to be an agreement.”

11.48

Reports coming in that 95 per cent of Hackney schools are closed today.

11.41

Dalston

Police are arresting protesters one by one, in a scene described as “horrible for a local protest” by an onlooker.

The arrested people are being marched to a nearby coach. The crowd is growing distressed and anxious, enhanced by the number of police dogs present.

People arrested at Dalston are lead to a huge nearby coach.

11.34

EastLondonLines reporter at Hackney Town Hall confirms that there are over 100 police officers present at the picket including numerous vans and police dogs.

The crowd are chanting, “Shame on you!” at police officers as they arrest one unnamed male. The reason for his arrest could not be confirmed at this time.

A kettle is underway nearby, though it contains just ten people. It is thought that these individuals are members of the Hackney squatting community, including the Orange Fence Group who squat at St. Mark’s rise and have been in a dispute with courts and Hackney council for several months.

A policeman at the scene confirmed to EastLondonLines that the two people arrested earlier at the library in Dalston were detained for breach of the peace in order that they be removed from the action of the demonstration.

 

11.33

Eastlondonlines’ Jane McCallion reports police action at New Cross station

11.28

Striking workers outside Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel earlier this morning.

 

Strikers at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel pic: Raziye Akkoc

 

11.25

Twitter reports that 100 people are now marching from Royal London Hospital towards Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

11.20

Traffic Update:

Waterloo Bridge now closed heading south, and severely delayed heading north.

Imax roundabout at Waterloo is blocked due to demonstrations.

M25 is delayed heading clockwise.

Main road route between Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Embankment is also closed ahead of mass demonstration at noon.

Hackney Road, Dalston lane and Pembury Lane are all closed by seperate demonstrations.

Surprise news from UK borders that immigration queues at airports are running quicker than usual.

11.17

11.15

Reports that Lewisham Way has been blocked by a large picket outside Goldsmiths College.

 

11.14

Two people have been arrested earlier this morning for a breach of the peace following some confusion during a police kettle of the CLR James Library in Hackney.

An organiser of the Hackney Town Hall picket has confirmed this rumour, and adds that this explains why a helicopter was flying over Dalston in the last few hours.

The Hackney Town Hall picket is now beginning to move towards the scene of the arrest in solidarity with the arrested pair.

 

Hackney Town Hall picket pic: Will Coldwell

 

11.08

Andrew Pelling, former Labour MP for Croydon

“It’s a breach of promise and the government should be straight forward with its comments. What was interesting is that today is unusual in that these groups rarely take action. It really shows the depth of anger in our cities today.”

 

11.04

Lewisham University Hospital have told EastLondonLines that it is not yet clear what proportion of its staff are striking, but that they have not had to cancel any services today and are running as normal. They added that staff are welcome to join the picket lines during their lunch break.

11.02

Radio reports come in that nine out of 10 schools in London are closed today. Our reporters in Croydon tell us that many strikers have their children, aged between toddlers to teens, with them on the march.

11.01

Croydon mothers and workers bring their children along to the demonstration.
 

Croydon mothers bring their children to the demonstration pic: Sarah Whitehead

 

 

10.57

Approximately 200 people gathered outside Croydon Town Hall are now moving towards East Croydon station.

 

Croydon crowds pic: Claire Shaw

 

10.56

Reports that Dalston Lane has been closed – more police arriving.

10.53

Reports from Croydon Town Hall:

Jon Morgan, Police Officer, Croydon: “This is one of the best turnouts I’ve ever seen in Croydon. Lets continue the fight!”

Margot Smith, Teacher at Croydon College: “Our unity is strength. This is the first day to start something big. What we want to see is a redistribution of wealth. Many people here to today are not in the pension scheme as their pay is too low. We can stand proud today and those people shold hang their heads in shame.

All power to us and all power to workers!”

Gaynor Hilbeam, 37, Mother of two, Purley: “The most important thing is pensions. As women we work part time, my pension will be diminished as we’ve taken time to spend with children. My daughter is in reception now and I’m bringing her along today.”

Charlene Carrett, Mother, Smithham Primary School: “The same thing will happen to my little girl as this can affect here. It’s important for them to see this.”

Georgette Johnson, 49, Branch Secretary of London Probation Trust of Unison:

“I’m striking because I think an injustice has been done to ordinary public sector workers.”

“I think it will [change things], because the government has said has said this is it, this is the final offer on the table, ther’s no more. but this morning I’m hearing ‘come back to the negotiation table, let’s talk about this’. Well, why do we need to come back if the government is saying that’s the end of the story?”

“Just thinking that another strike could happen will make them think twice.”

10.40

Public sector workers are gathering outside Croydon Town Hall and Stuart Collins (quoted previously) is giving a speech to the crowd.

“Now this government is taking away fair pensions. Croydon Council and Croydon Labour Group are fully in favour of the strikes.

We need our voices to be heard!”

Croydon education union pic: Sarah Whitehead

Shaun Luzio, 27, Home Office, Croydon

“Today is seeing a great turnout so far. We are doing this for all public sector workers. It’s about standing up to these cuts as enough is enough”

Croydon education union pic: Sarah Whitehead

 

10.40

Reports that police are kettling people outside the CLR James library in Dalston – Eastlondonlines is trying to confirm this now.

10.36

Students and Lecturers en masse at the Queen Mary picket in Mile End.

10.33

David Winters, 64, Former head teacher at Lonesome Primary School, Merton, Heathers Farm, and Oval Primary School, Croydon

“I am a retired teacher and I think it’s very important to strike. As a professional we need to stand up to government. What is happening is a form of bullying on the part of coalition government to public sector workers. It won’t hit me as much as younger members but I still feel strongly about it.

Our younger colleagues stand to lose an enormous amount and we will not stand for it.”

10.28

Philippa Harvey, 47, Teacher at Ecclesborne Primary School, Thornton Heath

“Pensions have been part of the deal before we went into teaching. What they’re asking us is not just to work for longer, but we have also got to pay more. It’s a continued attack on our salaries. I have to pay an extra £100 a month to get paid less, and I have to work for much longer.”

10.22

Queen Mary University in Tower Hamlets is picketed. Union officers Sophie Richardson and Ozzy Amir have joined the rally at the University in preparation for the demonstration at noon.

10.19

Attendance at the Bow Road Connexions picket now estimated at around 30-40 people, primarily from Unison and NUT. Now making their way on foot to Central London.

10.19

Stuart Collins, Deputy leader for Croydon Council and Department of Work and Pensions employee, Croydon

“Hopefully it will show the government we’re serious about protecting our own and future pensions. It won’t do the government any good to throw future generations of pensioners into poverty.

It’s important to add that it’s an untruth to say that civil servants have gold-plated pensions. The reality is it is only £9,000 a year. When I finish work I will have worked here for 40 years and my retirement pension will only be £12,000 a year.”

 

NUT pickey in Croydon pic: Sarah Whitehead

 

10.17

Around 50 people and supporters at the picket line outside Lewisham hospital, Eastlondonlines’ reporter says.

10.11

Steve Lindsay, 46, Immigration Officer, Electric House, Croydon

“We’ve been watching the doors and only 10 per cent of workers have come in to work this morning. There has been a lot of support, people tooting their horns as they pass. Even police said they would join us if they could. It’s not a minority thing.

It’s important to let the government know – we need a lot of people to stop them passing these cuts”

Immigration workers at the UK Border Agency in Croydon are now beginning to march to Croydon Town Hall to rally with other trade unions.

10.08

Jacky Arnold, 34, a teacher and NUT member from Bethnal Green at the Connexions picket line on Bow Road

“We have a government happy to see the rich get richer and quite happy to take our money…happy to keep the status quo [and] quite intent on breaking the unions”

It’s about more than just the pensions”

 

10.02

Police Horses on Bow Road, Tower Hamlets

Police on Bow Road pic: Raziye Akkoc

 

 

09.53

Rumour Mill

Unconfirmed reports of events that we will endeavor to verify as soon as possible:

Bank of Ideas, Hackney are sending out an SOS to legal aid workers in the area to help.

 

Reports have been coming on twitter from various sources, including @ClimateCampLdn, that the ‘Bank of Ideas’ occupation in Hackney has been raided.

EastLondonLines can confirm that it has not been raided, thanks to twitter updates from @OccupyLondon.

However, people are being searched by police on their way in and out of the building.

09.44

BBC reporting Unison and Unite angry about a text circulating from council offering extra payment for standby home care workers.

#strike #solidarity #righttostrike are all trending on Twitter.

09.33

Bow Road, Connexions official picket now live. Passing cars beeping in solidarity for NHS strikes.

NHS workers and teachers picket Bow Road, Tower Hamlets.
 

pic: Raziye Akkoc

 

Official reports say response times to emergency services will be affected today.

09.22

As trade unions prepare across the country for demonstrations at midday, pickets have been springing up at schools and hospitals across East London since 6am. National Union of Teachers (NUT) line the entrances to Haberdashers Askes School in New Cross, and Goldsmiths College, Lewisham.

 

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