Marchers from across London converged at City Hall on Saturday to demand solutions to the Capital’s housing crisis.
“Social housing is our right, here to stay, here to fight!” was the chant heard from one of the leading speakers from the Focus E15 Mothers, opening the protest.
The March For Homes is the amalgamation of housing campaigners and trade unionists, as well as left-leaning political parties. Many of the issues were around the high-rates of the private renting sector, benefit cuts, the demolition of social housing for private developers and the demand for new council homes.
Speaker Paul Heron, from the Executive Committee of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, also a member of the Socialist Party, attributed the march to three campaigns. He said: “E15 mothers have been an inspiration to housing campaigners across London.” This was greeted by cheers of support from the crowd.
Heron then listed the New Era tenants as the second inspiration, for stopping their estate being bought out by private investors. The third was the Unite Housing workers, who took strike action for better pay and conditions. He said: “New Era tenants have fought back against the hedge funds who tried to take over their housing.”
The Oxfam report which predicts that in the next 12 months one per cent of the world will own 50 per cent of the wealth, was a topic of much discussion and concern on the march. A lot of people compared the living conditions of some of the poor as similar to the Victorian era.
The vicar of Shoreditch church, spoke to the crowd: “Has anyone here got one million and forty thousand pounds to spare? No. If you did, you could afford a tiny one bedroom flat in my parish that is designated ‘affordable housing.’” The Vicar made an impassioned plea for everyone present to make a stand and unite, regardless of beliefs and backgrounds.
Another person to address the crowd was Max Levitas. The 100-year-old lifelong campaigner, locally regarded as an east-end hero, gave a speech to a crowd: “There are thousands of people homeless in east London… we must go into action to end the Tory government.” Levitas describes himself as an east-end Communist, ending his speech with: “You are the soldiers of the working class.”
Despite the icy rain and chilly winds, the march was energetic and much focus was made on the issues at the heart of the protest.
Russell Brand, known recently to support the New Era estate campaign in Hoxton, made an appearance at the march on his bicycle. EastLondonLines asked if he had a message to send to the public, to which he gestured to the crowd and said: “This is the message”, before cycling off.
The protest continued on peacefully and reached City Hall to meet with those marching from south London.
Video by Hannah Calder and Kate Holley