Saturday 26th March 2011.
400,000 people took to the streets of London to let the coalition government know that we did not agree with the cuts they were making, and that an alternative was possible. I was there as a youth worker and trade unionist with my union, which is also a part of the Choose Youth coalition – services for young people have been particularly affected by the cuts councils have been forced to make by a reduction in government funding.
It’s now about a month since the march and rally. In the days that followed there was lots of discussion, particularly around the violence that took place, the arrest of UK Uncut members at Fortnum & Mason, and around ownership of the day when there was condemnation of the actions taken by some groups. This led me to read more about protests, and I discovered what a black bloc is, among other things. (It is a group who wear black so they can come together, but are not an organised group like UK Uncut).
In the coverage that followed I was on the front page of the Observer and page 5 of the Sunday Mirror. I was a part of something, that whilst did not create an immediate government U urn I think raised awareness of the issues with the public. Certainly the slowing down of the NHS Bill was an embarrassment to the government.
Now I was fairly near the front, but even so by the time I got to Hyde Park it was time for me to leave. I didn’t see any violence or trouble, and it was a very positive experience for me – the biggest march I have attended so far, and as I passed Downing Street with a banner, a more experienced union comrade turned tome and said ‘Remember this, you won’t the chance very often.’
With a riot in Bristol a few days ago, it seems that civil unrest – and questions over how this is policed – is not going away, and may even be on the rise. Do I condemn or condone violence? I can certainly understand the strength of feeling – personally I don’t think it is the best way to get your point across, but when the democratic route stops working… Most change usually comes about from acts of defiance or violence. The public at large though will generally be against it – even more so if direct action affects them. The prevalent attitude seems to be that we should be thankful that we have jobs etc etc. Polls seem to swing for and against the cuts, but I think it is only now, as the impact starts to be felt, the job losses hit home and services disappear that the public will get really agitated – and now, it might just be too late…