South London People’s Assembly rally against cuts

Peoples Assembly speaker Owen Jones Pic: Policy Exchange

People’s Assembly speaker Owen Jones Pic: Policy Exchange

Hundreds of activists and campaigners from across south London gathered on Saturday to rally opposition against Government austerity measures.

Organised by the South London People’s Assembly, a local division of the anti-austerity campaign launched earlier this year, notable speakers included Independent columnist Owen Jones, blogger Jack Monroe, and Save Lewisham Hospital campaigner Dr. Louis Irvine.

Lia Korn, Secretary of the South London People’s Assembly, said: “I think it went really well. There was a really positive atmosphere.”

“You see a lot of the same faces, which is really good, because it shows they’re committed,” continued Korn, “today I saw a lot of new people, and that’s fantastic. [Growth] is absolutely crucial [to the movement].”

Owen Jones, author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, emphasised the need for action.

“We’re not here to let off steam, or to vent. We’re here to organise. We’re here to plan how we’re going to fight back.”

“Everything we have—all the rights, all the gains—they weren’t given to us by the goodwill and generosity of those above,” Jones continued. “They were won by the struggle and sacrifice of those below.”

In the closing plenary, blogger Jack Monroe spoke of her personal experience with hunger and joblessness:

“Turning off the heater for two consecutive winters—that’s not austerity, that’s poverty. So let’s call it by its real name. Let’s call it poverty.”

“Poverty is unscrewing light bulbs in your home so you don’t accidentally turn them on. Poverty is selling your son’s shoes. Poverty is drinking the formula milk the food bank gave you because you’ve got nothing else.”

“[Austerity] is not a medicine,” Monroe concluded, to a standing ovation. “It’s a cancer; a cancer at the heart of a society which should ultimately be about unity and solidarity.”

The Assembly held dozens of workshops in the afternoon, aimed to educate activists about austerity and ways to protest.

Workshops included ‘Challenging the Austerity Story,’ ‘Disability, Austerity, and Resistance,’ ‘Banner and Placard Making,’ ‘Alternatives to Austerity,’ and ‘The Housing Crisis’.

Attendants afterwards formed groups by borough, including Lewisham and Croydon, to plan further actions in their local area.

Activists in the Lewisham group plan to protest on Lewisham High Street on Saturday at 11am, before joining a larger South London People’s Assembly demonstration in Brixton at 2pm.

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