150,000 people attended the TUC anti- cuts demonstration in central London on Saturday. On the ground ELL reporters followed groups of activists from Hackney and Lewisham who shared stories about the impact of cuts on their communities and why they were attending the march.
Thousands of activists, including people from the EastLondonLines boroughs, will march today in the TUC (Trades Union Congress) demonstration, “A Future That Works”. The march will go through central London and end up with a rally in Hyde Park. Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to talk to the protestors.
Hello and welcome to ELL’s coverage of the TUC demonstration in central London today.
The demonstration is now over but you can read the blog from today below. The following people contributed towards the blog: Alice Yehia, Sophie Robinson-Tillett, Helen Lock, Joanna Kindeberg and Jo Abbas.
The Met police tweet that the rally and march are over and here are some more pictures from today.
TUC has confirmed the rally is now over and estimates a 150,000+ turn out.
A picture of protestors at Hyde Park:
Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades Union told protestors at the rally “…they are devastating our fire brigades. 17 stations are under the threat of closure and 600 might lose their jobs.”
An ELL report on the possible closure of stations across London can be found here.
ELL reporter says a group of protestors are trying to shut down stores on Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Met police have just tweeted about ‘anti-social behaviour’ on Oxford Street:
Laura Green, 25 of Stoke Newington, Hackney told ELL: “I’m here with my mum because I think places like Hackney are really suffering under the public services cuts. Young people are graduating into a country with no employment when they already have huge debts. I can’t afford to move out. And there are so many more are having it worse in Hackney. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and a job, but not everyone is in that place, and they’re cutting the options for people who aren’t.”
Paul McKeever, the chair of the Police Federation, released a video with a message of solidarity on the TUC’s ‘A Future That Works’ website.
Kumi Naidoo, international executive director of Greenpeace is speaking at the rally. He told crowds: “We need to claim back democracy”. He also said: “Why is it possible for the government in rich counties to find trillions of dollars for banks but not a fraction of that money to pay for our health, education and housing?”
The scene at Hyde Park:
Lauren Paraskeva, 24, from Hackney, works for a charity for vulnerable people in North London, told ELL: “I’m marching because these cuts are going to make life impossible for the people I deal with every day. I’ve had to move out of Hackney because my wages won’t sustain me there, and young people are really struggling to make ends meet. The government owe it to us not to make life even harder.”
Our reporter Helen Lock has met up with Katie Hanson, Labour Councillor for the Victoria ward in Hackney, who said that the borough has been especially affected by the cuts. She added:“It’s historically been a poor borough. Its been affected by the cap on housing benefit worse than other boroughs because lots of people rely on the public sector and living costs so high- it’s a bad combination.”
She added that “the turnout was great and it sent a strong message.”
Reporter Alice Yehia reports that people are chanting:”What do we want? General strike. When do we want it? Now.” She also reports that the atmosphere is becoming more chaotic.
Our reporter Helen Lock says that crowds in Hyde Park are becoming “rowdy” and the chanting has got louder and more serious. She said that big groups from the Socialist Workers Party are chanting “get back to Eton” as more police arrive.
ELL reporter Sophie Robinson-Tillett is towards the back of the march at Trafalgar Square, she describes the setting:”The protest is still peaceful and gathering more and more people. Jazz bands, brass bands and chants are filling the air. Lots of children on this march, families stopping at the side for picnics.”
An ELL reporter said that the police are guarding Starbucks, it seems they have picked up on rumours that they could be occupied.
Ed Miliband is now talking at the rally, the crowd is lively and horns are blowing. He says: “There will still be hard choices” which was met by boos. The crowd are still booing as he talks about tough measures. There are mixed responses from the crowd.
A TUC member is on top of a bus they’ve hired for the demo shouting that “minority groups are targeted by this government.”
Met police confirm that the rear of the march is now at Whitehall.
Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, is to address the rally shortly. Our reporter says the chanting is intensifying and people are spreading out.
Here’s an interesting article in the Guardian by Dan Milmo, ’10 alternatives to austerity’.
There are no official numbers yet but @SuhailMerchant just tweeted this:
Len McCluskey, general secretary from Unite is now speaking at the rally. He said:”We need growth that fulfils the need of the people”.
Our reporters have just reached Trafalgar Square where people are chanting “I’d rather be a pleb than a toff”. They are referring to the resignation of chief whip Andrew Mitchell yesterday after allegations that he called a police officer a ‘pleb’ continued to resurface to the detriment of his career, full story on the Guardian.
Toni Pearce of the National Union of Students is speaking at the rally now, she said she “wants to talk about real people… like students who have had EMA cut/struggling with tuition fees.”
ELL reporters have followed the march through Westminster.
Only report of police trouble so far on Twitter:
The Midwives Association are playing a “Brazilian type” rhythm on their drums:
Reporters Alice Yehia and Helen Lock are now in Westminster. They say the spirits are high but people are clearly angry about the impact of cuts on their communities.
Ruth Woolhouse, 39, nurse at Homerton Row Child and Young Persons Mental Health Service in Hackney told an ELL reporter: “We’ve had 25 per cent cuts since last year. We’re no longer able to contact some of the most vulnerable people in Hackney because they can’t make our clinics and we can’t run outreach properly anymore. Newham services have gone out to tender already and Virgin is one of the bidders. That’s where the NHS in Hackney is going if we don’t fight back.”
Reporter Alice Yehia is currently by Embankment. She said that people are playing bagpipes and there are representatives from the Fire Brigades Union. Read an EastLondonLines report on the possible closure of fire stations throughout London here.
A spokesperson for Metropolitan Police just told EastLondonLines they try to “steer away” from giving estimated numbers for participants in today’s march because they tend to be conflicting. However, police just tweeted this (below), which indicates that the march is very large.
The East London Teachers Association are marching today:
The march is following a planned route: Victoria Embankment > Bridge Street > Parliament Street > Whitehall > Trafalgar Square > Cockspur Street > Pall Mall > Lower Regent Street > Piccadilly > Hyde Park Corner > finishing at Hyde Park.
Sophie Robinson-Tillett is reporting from the Whitehall area. She describes the atmosphere: “It’s noisy and moving quite fast now. I haven’t seen any violence or police intervention, it’s a very peaceful, friendly atmosphere with a lot of vuvuzelas!”
She spoke to Bronwyn Handyside, 62, an organiser and campaigner from the Hackney Coalition to Save the NHS, who has lived in Clapton for 15 years. Handyside set up the coalition in response to 2010 white paper announcing Health and Social Care Bill. They work closely with Hackney Labour Party as well as local pensioners organisations, Kurdish and Turkish mental health groups, the BMA, and are backed by local trade unions. She said: “We want to spread out across the whole of Hackney. We aim to bring the community together in defence of the NHS.”
“In Hackney we’re very lucky, especially with doctors who are often very principled and dedicated to community health. They are prepared to keep fighting for that. We’re hoping the campaign can be an example to the rest of the country.
“We’re also asking for the Labour Party to have a practical plan of how to reverse the changes that are taking place in the NHS. The community itself must really get involved otherewise this won’t work and we won’t win the fight. We need to all understand what is happening and make decisions ourselves about what we want to happen to our loca health service.
“The NHS may appear to be just one of many things under threat, and in some ways it is, but everyone uses the NHS – unless you’re fabulously rich – and it embody the sense of community. It’s about people who need help being able to get it from people who can give it. There’s a brutalisation of society under privatisation that smashes up that human connection in communities.”
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber is to speak at the end of the rally today.
Here is some of what he is expected to say:
“It is fantastic to see so many people here today from every part of our community, all utterly determined to build a better, fairer future for our country.
“We have a stark and united message for the government. Austerity isn’t working. It is hitting our jobs, our services, our living standards.
“It is hammering the poorest and the most vulnerable.
“And austerity is failing even on its own terms, for this is a government of broken promises.
“Ministers told us that if we only accept the pain, recovery would come. Instead we have been mired in a double dip recession.
“They told us if we only accepted the cuts, our deficit would come down. Instead our borrowing is going through the roof.
“The biggest lie of them all was the cynical double talk that ‘we are all in this together’ .The grim reality has been tax cuts for the richest with wage and benefit cuts for the poorest.
“Who can ever believe this shambolic, make-it-up-as-you-go-along government? They have done so many spins and u-turns they would get 10 out of 10 from the judges of Strictly Come Dancing.”
Community Action Lewisham has just tweeted:
The Metropolitan Police have just tweeted:
Anna Livingston, a GP from Tower Hamlets and a member of the Tower Hamlets British Medical Association is marching today because of “the terrible effects of the cuts.”
She said: “Hospitals will be unable to deal with minor injuries and our community health services don’t have enough money. GPs are not given money to look after people, all of the benefits have gone. I’m here as an east-ender and someone who works in the public sector.”
Our reporters say there is a relaxed atmosphere at the moment, a group of students are playing reggae music and dancing: “It feels like people are still warming up, but they are all armed with banners and placards. There is a lot of noise though, especially whistling. And a lot of cursing the Tories. The crowd is slowly getting bigger and bigger.”
Anti-war groups have joined the protest and are chanting “Cut war, not welfare!”
Some of the placards are calling for a general strike and a spokesperson for the Green Party recited a monologue between the PM, David Cameron, and the chancellor, George Osbourne to the crowd.
Some interesting Tweets so far: Public and Commercial Services Union has just tweeted about a very dedicated protestor and Melanie Haslam has tweeted about the police presence.
Our reporters say the chants are getting creative: “They got bailed, we got sold out”. The local Green Party is joining in.
Protesters are now marching down Black Friars Road, our reporters say the march is picking up more people, including cyclists, as it goes along.
Jim Campbell, head of department for Stacs Social Therapeutic and Community studies at Lambeth College, is marching today because teachers have been pushed into a “consumerist form of education.”
He added: “The pressure is to deliver better teaching with less. We’re used to an old system of teaching where people believe in the welfare state.”
Reporter Alice Yehia spoke to Pauline Moran, the equity counsellor from the Actors’ Unison, who said: “Lots of theatres have closed down because of the cuts. The easiest targets are the arts. For every pound that goes in you get two back, it’s financial madness to cut the arts, lots of industry feeds in to the arts. Films like the Kings Speech would not have been possible without arts subsidy.”
Reporters Alice Yehia and Helen Lock are following Goldsmiths students and Lambeth College Unison, Southwark Unison, and the Teachers Association. The Goldsmiths Students’ Union president, Samson Osun, is supporting various political groups from Goldsmiths, he said: “I think this march is important to show solidarity with the public sector experiencing cuts and the cuts in higher education, especially arts and humanities.
“I think the march will change things. There are examples from France where government policy has been changed and it’s symbolic as well to participate in democracy.”
Reporter Sophie Robinson-Tillett is following ‘Hackney Keep our NHS Public’. Interview with the chair of the group to come later.
We have on the ground reporters- Alice Yehia, Helen Lock and Sophie Robinson-Tillet- following groups of activists from the ELL boroughs. Stay with us for exclusive interviews, pictures and real time reporting. To find out more visit here.