At a public consultation meeting last week in Islington, north London, held to consider Arsenal football club's multi-million pound redevelopment plans, a middle-aged woman stared the Lib Dem deputy council leader in the eyes. She was following a series of speakers, all of whom were up in arms at the club's big business plans.
'What do you think we are?' the woman demanded to know. 'As people, how do you regard us? Council tenants in an overcrowded area? We may be poor, unemployed, in ill health, but we all care about one another. We want you to treat us like human beings.'
The 200-strong audience broke into cheers, clapped and drummed their feet. As an Islington Socialist Alliance speaker pointed out, 'This is not about football. It is all about big business trampling over the needs of ordinary people. Arsenal want to turn the old stadium into a luxury residential project, with the old pitch turned into a private pleasure park for the yuppies. And we who live in the Lough Road area are going to get the fag end of these plans with a waste dump poisoning our air.'
The Socialist Alliance speaker then asked for a vote from the floor on the waste dump. Virtually everyone's hands shot up in opposition. The only people whose didn't were local councillors in the audience and the 'suits' from Arsenal in the front row.
At times the meeting became a mass protest, with people demanding that the council tells the truth about the plans. In the space of seven days around 500 people attended three consultation meetings. The Lib Dem council is behind the plans. The Labour 'opposition' is utterly silent.
Local Socialist Alliance members are working with umbrella lobbying group ISCA (Islington Stadium Communities Alliance) and are planning more protests. The council cannot keep the lid on the anger, especially over the waste dump, which will see 500 lorries a day transport 1,300 tons of waste through the local area.
See the ISCA website at www.redcard.org.uk