Mayor condemns cuts protests as ‘subversion’

The violent anti-cuts protests at Lewisham Town Hall on Monday evening have been condemned as an attempt to “subvert democracy” by Sir Steve Bullock, the borough’s Mayor.

Sir Steve said the protests, in which demonstrators let off smoke bombs and entered the council chamber, resulting in riot police being called, “undermined” the rights of those citizens who wished to protest peacefully and raise issues to the Council.

Sir Steve said: “It is clear that there was an organised attempt to prevent a democratic meeting taking place. The Labour Party must always support the democratic process.

“I have made clear that I will not make decisions on the basis of who shouts the loudest. Those people who will be most affected do not always have the ability to make their voices heard and I have a duty to make sure that their needs are taken fully into account as we make the difficult choices.”

A crowd of 100 protestors were held back as the Mayor and his Cabinet agreed on a £16m cuts package. A number of people were arrested.

Lewisham Anti Cuts Alliance, who organised Monday’s protest, said it had been a peaceful protest. Protesters had planned to “oversee the Council” from the public gallery, and “formed an orderly queue” as they passed through security.

“By not allowing us into the public gallery or providing a video link in an over-spill area, the police were preventing our democratic right to observe a public council meeting,” said the Alliance.

In response to claims that the Council has provided a video link for previous meetings, a Council spokesman said: “We have not done this before.”

Prior to Monday night’s meeting, Lewisham Council had been warned that members of the public were planning “to bring paint, flour and shoes to throw from the public gallery”.

A Council spokesman said: “We did receive intelligence and that’s the reason for the extra security as advised by the Police.”

James Holland from the Save New Cross Library campaign said: “The people ‘subverting democracy’ are those cutting public services without an honest and open debate about alternatives, then restricting access to observe this.”

Jess Edwards, Chair of Lewisham Right to Work, said the cuts package imposed by the government was unnecessary.

“There should be no cuts made, there’s a lot of money in society. The richest in our society should be taxed more. They should cut Trident and bring the troops home,” she said.

“This is how we can pay for the crisis. Make the rich pay, not the poor people of Lewisham, not the students, not the pensioners, not the unemployed.”

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