Saturday’s march in London was a chance for people to show how much they cared about their local services, their own jobs and those of the many thousands who work in the public sector. A chance to show the government that people don’t accept that cuts are inevitable and that there is no alternative. I made the trip to London to demonstrate against the coalition’s dismantling of the welfare state and the withdrawal of funding to local organisations like Birmingham TUC Centre for the Unemployed. If Cameron were serious about the importance the ‘Big Society’ and the importance of volunteering he wouldn’t be killing off organisations that allow people to work to improve the live of others.
It was great to see so many other people coming together to send a clear message to the government. The march started at the Embankment and slowly made its way to Hyde Park. Standing on the pavement watching the marchers go past, before joining the procession, was a moving experience. The banners and signs showed that the government had made enemies of people from all walks of life, from all over the country and the young and old. The unions were out in force but so were many different community groups.
It took almost 4 hours to make it from the Embankment to Hyde Park. It didn’t help that I had a pulled hamstring. Many weren’t able to finish the march because they had to leave to get their coaches. The march was good natured and even the police seemed friendly – perhaps they would have preferred to have been marching rather than protecting the premises of the banks, Top Shop, Vodafone, Boots and the posh hotels. I didn’t see any violence although there were a few broken windows and paint had been thrown at some buildings.
With the police estimating that there were 250,000 marchers you can assume that there were twice that number. The question is, where do we go from here? One well-attended march on its own isn’t going to make the government chance its mind. We have to continue to fight to reverse the planned cuts. The march showed that there is a genuine desire for people to come together to protect their local services. We need to build on the successful march and continue to make it clear to the coalition government that there is an alternative and that it is better to fight the cuts together than on our own.