Over half a million people marched through London today in a magnificent outpouring of working class anger against the government.
While the speeches were beginning in Hyde Park, others were still arriving at the start point on Embankment.
The sea of union banners, placards and flags made a dazzling display. For almost five hours delegations from workplaces across Britain filled the streets of central London.
There was a widespread feeling that the demonstration should be followed by more resistance.
The loudest cheers at the rally in Hyde Park were for those who called for joint action and strikes – and that was clearly the mood of the march.
We need coordinated strikes – and we need a general strike.
Today we showed the depth of feeling against the cuts. As well as anger there was bitterness against the class war on the poor that the Tories have declared.
The Tories are scared of our side and they are right to be. They know that the working class has the power to bring down governments. Today the potential for that was there for all to see on the streets of London.
Police have moved in on peaceful protesters in Trafalgar Square.
After a day of hyping up violence the media are now talking about calm being restored. But it was police who destroyed the calm in the square.
The reality is that a party atmosphere had predominated throughout the evening. According to those present on the ground, as soon as some graffiti appeared on the Olympic countdown clock, a large force of riot cops moved in.
At night police chose to move in with force. People were pushed back. Police surrounded the protesters.
Bob Broadhurst, the police commander in charge of the operation claims, 'I wouldn't call them protesters. They are engaging in criminal activities for their own ends.” That may come as shock to those kettled in Trafalgar Square.
Earlier police arrested protesters who had been occupying Fortnum and Mason when they voluntarily ended their occupation.
The occupation of Fortnum and Mason has ended. But protesters are being kettled outside.
On Oxford Street there are still hundreds of protesters.
At the rally in Trafalgar Square Susan Meadows addressed the crowd. She is the mother of Alfie Meadows, a protester who had life saving brain surgery after being hit on the head by a police baton during last December's student protest.
Susan said, “I heard yesterday that a brain injury unit in Edgware is being closed. This is not a world where everything is fair and just. This is a world that we have to protest about. We have a brilliant tradition of protest in this countrynow we have to build our own revolution.”
Charlie Kimber from the Socialist Workers Party said, “On Bloody Sunday in 1887 men and women protested in Trafalgar Square and were killed by police. In 1990 we finished off the poll tax here and set fire to the apartheid South African embassy.
“This is historic ground and we have a historic message: we do not want slower cuts or less cuts. We don’t want any cuts at all.
“Some will tell us that today is enough, well done. But we have to say it is only the beginning. It is not a question of how much we have to cut from education and pensions—the question should be how much are we going to put into education and pensions.
“And it is a disgrace that while they say there is no money for us, there is money for an imperialist western intervention in Libya. This is not about people’s freedom, it is about oil and power.
“If a million people can march together today, what is to stop a strike of 1 million, of 6 million, of ten million? This is what we have to fight for.
'We have to start the argument in all our workplaces that we need a general strike. Capitalism means poverty and war, we need revolution and socialism everywhere.”
At the rally earlier in day around 20 spoke interspersed with films and music.
Labour leader Ed Miliband was greeted by cheering and flag waving. He told the crowd, 'The Tories said I shouldn't come today, but I am proud to stand with you. We know there is an alternative.
'We are here today from ALL walks of life, ALL classes, ALL backgrounds.
'We stand in the tradition of the suffragettes, the civil rights movement and the anti apartheid movement.
'We need some cuts, but this government is going to far. Where is the fairness? They say we're all in it together but they're closing children's centres while it's business as usual for bankers' bonuses.
His speech was popular, though there were some boos when he talked about needing some cuts. But the biggest cheers of the afternoon went to people who talked about taking action.
For instance Unite union leader Len McCluskey who started by saying that even the police are estimating 500,000 on the march.
'We're not prepared to stand idly by and let them dismantle our society. You know precisely what the cuts mean – battered high streets and shattered cities.
He said it took generations to build the welfare state, and 'We will not sit by as a gaggle of public schoolboys tear it down. Unless they stop their attacks this will be their poll tax.
'I have a message to the Labour Party. We need strong opposition. We need you on the barricades with us NOW.
'This is only the start. We need a plan of resistance including coordinated strike action.'
Dave Prentis of Unison said, 'Today is one day – one magnificent day- but tomorrow we must march on. We will grow louder and stronger to make our coalition – to break the pay freeze, to defend our pensions. We will march in our thousands and vote in our millions to ditch their coalition once and for all.'
Christine Blower of the National Union of Teachers said, 'We will stand together, march together and if necessary strike together till we turn round these cuts.'
Physiotherapist Vicky Yeardley talked about the reality of working for the NHS and dealing with the government's 'efficiency savings'. She said, 'If 50,000 job loses don't count as cuts I shudder to think what does. But it is the privatisation that is the biggest threat to the health service since it was set up.' She said in her field many places are now already rationing access to physiotherapy without consideration of need.
Billy Hayes of the CWU said we must all fight against the privatisation of Royal Mail. 'We will be defined not by what we say from this platform but by what we do. If we have to fight so be it. We are many they are few.'
Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote, said that oppressed communities are resourceful, but 'Our community groups can do fantastic work with a little money – but they can't do it with nothing!'
Mark Serwotka of the civil service workers PCS union talked about meeting up with the government as part of a TUC delegation and realised these millionaires neither use public services nor have a mandate to cut them.
To a huge cheers he said today has been fantastic, 'But imagine what a difference it would make if we didn't only march together but took strike action together.'
Protesters are in Trafalgar Square and holding a rally—turn Trafalgar Square into Tahrir Square.
Activists organising the rally want to bring the spirit of the Arab revolutions to London as part of the day of protest under the banner, “The people demand regime change”.
John McDonnell, Labour MP opened the rally. He said, “It’s time for the TUC to fulfil its historic role and not let each strike get picked off one by one. It’s time for the unions to strike together—it’s time to call for a general strike.”
Anne Alexander who has recently returned from Cairo spoke about the revolution in Egypt. She said, “Of course there are differences between here and Egypt—they are facing live ammunition. But their demands are the same: freedom, democracy and social justice.”
She then asked the crowd if they will send a message of support to a protest taking place in Egypt tomorrow against the anti-strike and anti-demo laws.
A huge “yes” roared back from the crowd.
Some people have erected tents and are planning to spend the night in the square.
In Vauxhall streams of protesters are returning to their coaches. Meanwhile, other protesters are still getting into Hyde Park.
Siobhan and Charlee are student midwives at King's College London. Siobhan said, 'With the cuts we don't know if we'll have jobs to go to at the end of our course. But the point of doing it is to get a job!' Charlee added that today's protest 'should show the government that the public has the power.'
Bob from Bournemouth told Socialist Worker, 'This is my first time on a demo. The last straw for me was the government getting rid of the mobility allowance for people in residential homes. It means they cant get out. The government doesnt want a welfare state. We've got to keep the pressure on.'
John and Bill from the RMT West Midlands regional council told Socialist Worker, “We’ve showed our solidarity today—we need to have a fight now. The size of the demonstration shows the way we feel about all the cuts. Not just those in our industry. The best thing the government can do is renationalise the railways and put the money back into the system. We need to keep campaigning.”
The occupation of posh food store Fortnum and Mason continues. There are around 1,000 protesters outside and a large number remain in the store. Some 20 people are on roof, sitting on chairs brought from inside.
Trade unionists at the back of the protest are standing cheering the occupation.
Althea Nesty, a GMB activist, told Socialist Worker, “I don’t support any of the cuts going ahead—that’s what today is about. And I think what the occupiers are doing is brilliant, its exactly what young people should do. That’s what I did when I was young.”
Posh food shop Fortnum and Mason has been occupied as was the Ritz Hotel earlier.
Hundreds of people assembled in Oxford Circus for a UK Uncut Bail in. As earlier in the day anti cuts and tax avoidance protesters closed down more than 13 shops on Oxford Street whilst many more shut simply shut their doors.
There are at least 16 trade union sections on the march. The PCS block has arrived arriving in Hyde Park while thousands are still pouring through Trafalgar Square.
Kristella is a PCS member from Cheltenham who works for the ministry of defence.
She told Socialist Worker, “I am proud after marching today. We are facing 30 percent cuts in jobs, a worse redundancy package and attacks on our pensions. This is leading to low morale at work and stress. But our strength in numbers is shown by the demo today. I think we need to go on strike next, all the unions together. If we all do it, it will cripple the country.”
Thousands of marchers are still only passing through Trafalgar Square.
Midlands GMB steward Bob Johnson told Socialist Worker, “Lots of GMB members play important roles in public services. Many are support staff like maintenance workers—these are the people losing their jobs.
“The government lied when they said they would protect frontline services. Even if that was true, if you cut backroom staff the frontline suffers.
“This march shows that when we say ‘we are all in this together’, what we mean is that we are all united against the cuts.”
Lynn from Nottingham joined the protest with her daughters. “I came today because I couldn’t stay away,” she told Socialist Worker. “Lot’s of people were coming locally, but I waited too long to get on the transport. So we came on the train. This feels like it’s historic.
“I’m here because of my children – they need a future. We were always told when we were younger that every generation would have better lives. But we are seeing that go backwards.”
Jennifer, an NUT union member, told Socialist Worker, 'For me today is about showing the government that lots of people are angry and know the cuts are a choice. The turnout has gone beyond the unions and usual suspects. Today has to be the start, not the end.'
Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, told Socialist Worker, 'This a fantastic start and the question now is what next. We cant let the campaign go cold. Unions have to work together. The NUT members who went to the UCU lecturers' picket lines said they were great, but want to know why all the unions cant be out together.'
Hundreds of thousands of people are still pouring through the streets of London. Young and old, black and white, women and men from every corner of Britain.
There hasn't been a trade union demonstration like this for decades.
Pamela Fenton, a pensioner from Bath, told Socialist Worker, 'I'm here for the next generation. Every change for the good has been fought for, never given to us, abortion rights, equal pay, and so on. I don't see how the government can retreat. I think the only way to stop it is if it was brought down.'
Christine from the GMB union in Brighton told Socialist Worker as she marched into Hyde Park, “This is a fantastic show of solidarity. Workers are uniting. The cuts will hit the vulnerable, elderly people and children.
“The march on its own won’t change the minds of those in power—we need a revolution in this country. The government is creating a two-tier system between the haves and the have-nots. But this demo with people from all over the country shows that we are prepared to fight.”
On the streets you can feel the power of the working class. The big question is can we turn the mood on the streets into the workplaces? If every one in a union contingent marching today went into work on Monday and argued that we should all strike together to stop the cuts – we could not just stop the Tory attacks, we could bring the government down.
There is a carnival atmosphere in Hyde Park, despite the occasional showers of rain. There are food stalls, music and a children's area.
In between speeches there are films about cuts.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, told the crowd, “Thousands are here, thousands are marching and tens of thousands are still queuing to march at Embankment.
“Young and old, black and white, men and women from all walks of life and every part of Britain.
“We will fight their savage cuts.
“We are not all in it together. This coalition government has turned out to be a demolition government. Don't believe the health service is safe in their hands when 50,000 job cuts are already planned. The NHS is already in intensive care. We will not let you destroy what it took generations to build. The NHS is not for sale!
“There is an alternative. Get the economy moving. Tackle the tax cheats. Introduce a Robin Hood tax on the banks.
“We're not going away. This is just the beginning of our campaign. David Cameron if you want to see a big society you should come to Hyde Park!'
Unison union members, the first block on the march, are just finishing pouring in to Hyde Park. The end of the march is yet to leave Embankment. The speeches have started from the union leaders.
On the march Eileen Price, a Unison rep at Birmingham Children’s Hospital told Socialist Worker, “Fifteen of us came from the hospital. We are facing cuts everywhere. We’ve lost people in finance and medical records. People have been down banded and had their job descriptions changed.
“Management have been employed just to make cuts. They have been savage. But it’s absolutely fantastic to be on the demonstration today. It’s great to see hundreds of thousands marching for the same thing. And there are still tens of thousands to come into the park. It is really uplifting to see so many people protesting. We have to carry on. We are worried about our children’s future. We are here to show the government we are serious.”
Protesters are pouring through Trafalgar Square.
A big banner demanding regime changing hangs off the main perimeter wall of the square. A samba band and two of drummers are playing at different corners and protesters and chanting, blowing whistles and vuvuzelas.
There are trade unionists, pensioners and students and people marching with their families.
Dan, a firefighter from Nottingham, told Socialist Worker, “It’s great to be in London today and have all these people around us. Firefighters in London struck against the cuts that we all face across the country. In our work we see how poor housing and poverty put people’s lives at risk. This can mean more fires, more accidents and we are here to help those people.
“The attacks on the fire service, like the health service, are damaging people’s lives right now. We’ve brought lots of people from our FBU union. We want to be part of something bigger. Solidarity is a real thing it means us fighting together and that is what today is about.”
Haci Ozdemir is from the refugee workers cultural association. He told Socialist Worker, 'Protests should continue – we cant stop the Tories with one protest. And it has to turn into industrial action and, at some point, a general strike. That would bring all sections of society together against the government.'
A student from Sheffield said, “I didn’t come on the big student demonstrations at first but towards the end it became clear that the more people the better. I am proud to be one of the many people here today.
'When our lecturers struck last week we had brilliant conversations with them on the picket lines about where we can go from here. So we are hoping to bring together UCU, Unison and the students union so that we can shut down education to fight the cuts.”
Steve, a voluntary sector worker from Bradford, said, 'The Tories are waging class war. I don't think we should suffer, the bankers should pay for the chaos they've caused. We need to make Britain ungovernable.'
The front of the march has arrived at Hyde Park. At the start point in Embankment thousands of people are still arriving and the march stretches far back beyond Waterloo bridge.
A London firefighter on the march told Socialist Worker, 'I'm here partly because of what's happening to the fire service but also because of what the governments doing to everyone. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. They want to raise our retirement age, but we get little injuries throughout our career. We cant carry on until 60. We're all in it together apparently but just two days ago MPs changed the rules to get more expenses.'
Brian is a pensioner from Camden, north London. He's marching against the closure of elderly peoples' services in Camden. 'There are three old people's centres south of Euston Road, and they're closing all three.'
Marianne lives in south London and came with her community group on the march. “I thought they had stopped talking about the big society because they are ashamed of what they are doing. But when I listened to the budget they had the barefaced cheek to bring it up again. What does it even mean?
'For me it means them leaving people to care for themselves, feeling embarrassed and ashamed to seek help and been made to feel isolated from the community they are part of. My closest friend has mental health problems and relies on counselling to do deal with work and life in general. He has received a letter saying that his care is non-essential. He will now have to apply and be put on a waiting list every single time he needs counselling instead of being on a rolling programme. If that is what David Cameron’s vision is for Britain, he should be locked up.”
Moira is a social worker from Dumfries, Galloway. She told Socialist Worker, “We have seen so many cuts to social services already. For the Tories this is just the start. Our services and jobs are being smashed. They want to take public services back to the past, but we have to say that isn’t an option. Today is not just about trade unions, it’s about everybody joining together and telling Cameron this is our big society.”
As the front of the demonstration passed Downing street the crowd stopped and booed. It is now arriving at Trafalgar Square.
More videos uploaded here www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=24339
The front of the demonstration has set off from Embankment.
Duncan Cox, baggage handler and chair of Unite Heathrow. He told Socialist Worker, 'There's a constant downward trend on wages, companies compete to undercut each other all the time. I was on picket lines with cabin crew, have lot of sympathy with them'
One British Airways cabin crew Bassa union member, 'We were the first to start fighting against these capitalist bastards and we're still fighting. We're here in solidarity with everyone else.'
Adrian Mayhew, FBU east anglia told Socialist Worker, 'We want a change of government. They've got enough money to bomb Libya, they should spend it on good public services here'
Anna is a teacher from Blandford in Dorset. She said, 'It's essential we don't make the same mistakes as in the past – cutting public services to help a deficit. Who is going to pay taxes when half the public sector workers are unemployed?
'I'm in the Green Party so I'm not Labour's greatest fan but this new government is wrecking everything.
'In my school we're facing growing cuts. There’s no way we can afford to get rid of all our teaching assistants.
'Many of us in the NUT thought it was churlish to strike over our pay when so many other public sector workers were losing jobs. But now I think we've got to strike to save all our public services.
'I came up on a Unison coach. It was great to see so many young people and students along.'
A few thousand people are just setting off from Kennington Park to march to join the protest.
Jess Edwards, is a local NUT rep. She told Socialist Worker, “We met up for breakfast at my school. Parents brought their kids and joined teachers. We made banners and placards to bring with us.
“This is amazing—there are home made placards and banners everywhere. There are NUT flags and banners. We’ve got a big delegation fro Chestnut Grove School in Wandsworth which was on strike recently. There are tons of kids and primary school banners.”
Laura is on the feeder march assembling at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London.
“There are hundreds of people assembling,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I can see banners and delegations from the UCU, Camden TUC, Camden NUT, USDAW Garden Centre Branch, Islington NUT, the College of North East London and NHS workers.
“There is a Somali women’s group who has just joined the march and a Turkish Cypriot women’s group.
“People are chanting ‘when they say cut back, we say fight back,’ and ‘workers and students unite and fight.’ Students and young people are joining with pensioners and disabled activists in wheelchairs. The mood is electric.”
Students are marching down Kingsway to the LSE on their way to join the big march.
People making their way to the demo are joining the students, including people from the Sheffield anti cuts alliance, a group of RMT members and people waving Unison, PCS and Unite flags, and a group of firefighters.
Coaches from the south and west are dropping off at New Covent Garden and Battersea in South London. One from Falmouth in Cornwall has been on the road since 3.30am. As contingents head off to join the march they wave banners and flags from Unison, Unite, PCS, Ucatt, Nasuwt. Cars are honking their support.
Carl is a firefighter from Bridgend. He came on a coach with three others from Swansea. 'We want to voice our anger at the cuts to our service and pensions and at the government's general attack on everyone.
'I think it's great to see the unions getting together to organise this.
'After today they need to sit down and decide what to do next. If the government doesn't listen we should all consider strikes.'
Mohamed is a refugee support worker from Cardiff, who came on a coach put on by his union Unison. He said, 'Today has to be the beginning of a persistent and sustained campaign against this government. In my department we have already faced cuts and things are going to get worse.'
A number of union leaders spoke to Socialist Worker as the march assembled. Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary said, “Today is working people—families and children—showing their opposition to what this coalition government is doing to society. They are making cuts that there is no need for, and elderly and vulnerable people are paying the price. Today is our people standing up in their tens of thousands for communities and ordinary people with one clear message: the banks and big business caused this mess, they should be the ones cleaning it up.”
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, “Today represents people coming together to show that there is an alternative that we in the trade union movement will stand up and fight for. It doesn’t matter what age you are, or what job you do—we are the people who form the big society, not this government. We are proud to be here and we will continue to protest like this.”
Len McCluskey, Unite union general secretary told Socialist Worker, 'Today represents the expression of the palpable anger throughout the land. People are waking up to the ideological attack on all of us. The Demonstration is about raising consciousness. We need to effectively challenge the government.
'The campaign needs to roll on after today with demonstrations around the country. The TUC needs to move forward with coordinated action of all public sector unions. We should rule nothing out.'
11.05amThere are 11 coaches from Plymouth heading to London. Tony Staunton is on the Trades Council coach. “We’ve had a fantastic discussion using the bus microphone,” he told Socialit Worker. “We’ve also shown a Reel News dvd about the student protests and the anti-academies campaign.”
In London a group of bin workers from Basildon council have joined the protest. Mr Foo told Socialist Worker, “Loads of us have come from Basildon because the simple fact is we don’t have to make cuts. There are executive pay rises and bonuses in the council—why should we loose jobs at lower levels?
“The bosses say we are all suffering together, but then give themselves a 9 percent pay rises. It’s time to come out and show them how we feel. Workers are all in the same boat. We have to show that we are going to stick together.
“The unions need to lobby the government together. Do they want us to go the same way as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt?”
Mark Chapman is a PCS member from Aberdeen. He travelled down to London on the sleeper which left at 9.40pm yesterday.
He told Socialist Worker, “We are already starting to feel the full affect of the cuts in Aberdeen. The local tax office has been closed. The job centre plus has had a threat of closure and the passport office is due to close. We are here to stop it going any further.
“I work for revenue and customs and the PCS is looking at how we can collect all the tax that is evaded and avoided by corporations. This shows that there is no need for any cuts.
“PCS revenue and customs is balloting to strike over sickness policy and we hope to see coordinated action across the unions. A general strike would be fantastic. There has got to be a show of force—hopefully today is a start.”
Claudia Rees and her daughter Maise are on Mallet Street outside ULU.
“I Live in Camden. The council are cutting all the Sure Start centres,” Claudia told Socialist Worker. “They have been so useful for me—without them I wouldn’t know anyone and I would be sitting in my flat on my own feeling very lonely. And they are cutting the budget for the nursery my other daughter goes to.
“Most people who go there are poor and live in council flats. If that turns into another private nursery that only the rich kids can go to it will be a disaster. This is not the big society—it’s tearing people apart.
“When they cut the swimming lessons, they said it is only a few extra pounds a week. But people can’t afford extra. All my friends are from the nursery and we have to fight for that.”
Lucy is in her second year at Edinburgh University. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m here to support the TUC and to show that workers and students are united against the government.
“I was in the occupation at Edinburgh Uni and I learned how to work together with lots of different people with different ideas, but with the common aim of stopping the cuts.
“I’ve been on the lecturers picket lines and encourage students not to go in. We need more demos and more direct action if we are going to stop the government.”
Fiona a civil servant from Glasgow joined the students coming to London. She said, “I’ve come with the students because they have been fighting so hard against the government. Education is vital for everybody. I’ve seen cuts in my workplace too. We’ve been forced to so more with less people, and that’s how the Tories want it. I’m here to try and stop them.”
Videos of Embankment are here http://www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=24339
10.40amAt Embankment a Unison protester in a wheelchair carries a placard saying 'We're not from Eton'. Another placard reads 'Listen to the people's rage'. A group of children are painting placards one reads 'Stop it Cameron'
Kevin Joss from Ashton-under-Lyne told Socialist Worker 'I work in libraries. About 800 will close in next 12 months and that's just the start. Its just one facet of a range of measures to disadvantage ordinary people while the rich ride off into the sunset with the loot!'
10.25amStudents are beginning to assemble outside the University of London Union to march to embankment.
Josh, a student from City and Islington College told Socialist Worker, “The government is trying to destroy our futures, and the police is helping to protect them.
“My mum voted Lib Dem at the last election and now she is on this demo today. Mainstream politicians are only interested in themselves, they don’t care about us—so we have to make them.”
Emily is a student from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She told Socialist Worker, “The first time I demonstrated was on the student protest on 10 November. I am sure there are lots of people like me that have had their eyes opened to how unjust the world because of this government. So I am here because we have to fight for justice.”
As the crowds assemble in Embankment. Joe Glenton who was jailed for refusing to fight in Afghanistan is ready to march on what will be his biggest demo yet. He told Socialist Worker, 'This is a natural progression for me. I feel at home here. A lot needs to be resisted. I have developed a passion for antagonising the state and this is where its going to happen.'
Jennifer Akrill, medical science student told Socialist Worker, 'I'm angry about EMA cuts, I would've got it but there is no point applying now. I want to be a nurse but the government is cutting the health service'.
Pauline, Jennifer's mother an RMT union member said, 'I was on the Poll Tax demo. Protest can make a difference.'
Barbara Baker from Durham POA told Socialist Worker, 'The prison service has already cut staff and want to privatise more prisons. Prisoners' time out of cells is vastly reduced. They're treated like caged animals – no wonder there's more violence. I work with female prisoners. There are huge levels of self harm but they're not getting mental health provision they need. We're left to deal with it. POA members working today will hold lunchtime meetings to show support for the protest.'
Keith Shilson is a postal worker based in Helston in Cornwall. He is on an NUT coach travelling to London.
“There are GMB activists and retired trade unionists and campaigners on our coach. There are play workers who have just been made redundant and who have set up a play workers network. People are discussing linking up the Penzance parents group and the play workers to fight the cuts.”
There are also coaches from the NUT, GMB, Unison and Unite unions and a train with a large block of PCS members.
Keith added, “I’m marching against all the cuts, I’m a dad and a worker. We face cuts that will affect all aspects of our life. But I’m also marching because, as a postal worker, I’m worried about the Tories destroying the rural mail service. People are very concerned about the threat of privatisation.”
Geoff Abbott, a lecturer from Newcastle, reports that over 500 people joined the train to London. “There are people from the Unite, UCU, NUT, Nasuwt and PCS unions plus people with their friends and family. There is a great mood—people have brought banners and placards with them for the march.”
There are also coaches taking students and other activists to London from Newcastle.
“There are around 40 coaches from Bristol,” Simon told Socialist Worker. “Fourteen from Unison, eight from Unite and three from the PCS. The FBU has a coach and the NUT has five. And there are coaches full of students and campaigners. There is a mix of local government and health workers on my coach as well as family members, and retired and new trade unionists.”
On Embankment in London the GMB contingent is already making lots of noise with drums and vuvuzelas. Mrs Khan, the president of GMB Wembley, told Socialist Worker, 'The government is cutting too much and people losing a lot of jobs. It shouldn't be going for war in Libya. We have to fight them.' Colin Kerr a GMB branch sec from Havering told Sociialist Worker, 'If Hutton goes ahead and attacks pensions there's a possibility of a general strike. It will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.'
More reports are coming in from around the country as people head to the demonstration
Activists gathered at 8am in Birmingham There are more than 40 coaches travelling from Birmingham to London including 18 from Birmingham Unison, 4 from the NUT, 5 from the PCS, 5 from Unite, a coach from the Sparkhill job centre and the women's hospital.
Geoff reports from a Unison coach: “Over 800 of us have left on the Unison coaches—we had great media coverage. People are marching about the cuts to jobs and services locally—the council want to sack over 6,000 workers. People are saying we have to show them we mean business.”
Helen reports from the Sparkhill job centre coach: “We have a feast on our coach—sandwiches, samosas, donuts and cakes!”
Tony Barnsley reports that there are six full coaches from Sandwell and 29 Unite coaches from across the Black Country. Tony said, “This is more transport than we organised for the anti-war march of more than a million in 2003, it’s fantastic.”
Cath from the Leceister coach reports, “We’ve got a large contingent of service users on our coach who have got together and set up a service users against reductions group.”
Nick from Huddersfield was one of over 200 Kirklees Unison members to get on coaches to London. There are is also an NUT coach from Dewsbury. “We have delegations from post offices, the hospital, university, local government, FE colleges and students despite our sixam start,” Nick said. “There is a great atmosphere and lots of discussion on my coach.”
Julie Bremner reports, “We have seven coaches from Norwich city centre but at least 30 from across Norfolk—it’s a really great turnout,”.
There are at least 10 coaches leaving from Liverpool this morning with trade unionists and their families.
“We have social workers, nurses and miners on the two coaches from Rotherham Unison health branch,” From Rotherham Phil Turner told Socialist Worker.
Jon is on a coach from Margate. “We have Labour councillors, PCS and NUT union members, pensioners forum activists and unemployed people on the coach,” he said. “A delegation of Polish workers fighting for union rights at a local agri-business have also joined us.
Pauline said, “There are five coaches from Medway. Our coach has trade unionists, students, Medway Against Cuts activists, pensioners and others. The mood is up for a fight against these vicious Tory cuts. In Feb 2003 we only sent three coaches to the anti-war demo—and there are hundreds going up by train. This is a brilliant turnout, and it needs to be if we are going to bring down this government.”
Tom Woodcock, a local teacher in the NUT union is on the transport from Cambridge. “There are over 500 people booked on to ten coaches—more than 150 council workers, over 100 teachers and lecturers, students, health workers and a coach load of civil servants and postal workers.
“There are many more booked onto trains, including bin workers and most of Cambridge fire station. There is a real mood of unity.”
The determination to make the march a success was symbolised in Richard Evans. He is a PCS union rep who walked from his home town of Cardiff. He said , “Many people think it is just about the loss of civil service jobs, but it is about so much more than that. It is going to have an impact on everyone. And there is an alternative.'
“Don’t get old, don’t get sick, don’t trust con men Dave and Nick”, is the chant Julie and her sister are going to use on the demo. They are two of the hundreds of people travelling from Manchester to London.
Julie is a occupational nurse working in the NHS and her sister is a teacher from Rochdale. There are 65 teachers from Rochdale on the train.
Mark Krantz reports: “There are around 500 of us on the NUT train from Manchester. It is packed with delegations from schools including Chorlton High, Whalley Range Girls and Stretford High. There are careers guidance workers from Connexions, retired teachers and students. There are also families with children. At Euston we will march as a block to the embankment to join the NUT national contingent.”
Rachel, a teacher on the train said, “I am so excited—this is my first demo.”
Mike Killian is on coaches from Manchester Unison. “We have two full coaches plus people travelling up by train. It is packed with regular Unison members, the atmosphere is great.”
A group of activists from Cardiff People First have set off with PCS members.
Marianne Owens, a member of the PCS Revenue and Customs group executive, told Socialist Worker. “We had three full PCS coaches heading off from Cardiff. At the Membury services there were over 100 coaches going to London—it was an incredible site. Everyone is excited.”
Jeff Hurford is on a Unison coach from Bridgend. He said: “We are on the M4 and I can see coaches from west Wales, Cornwall and Swansea. It’s incredible. We saw 17 coaches in our 20 minute stop at Reading services. Everyone is itching to get to London to join people from across the country.”
Working class people are coming to London today to say enough to the Tories assault. The first transport to set of yesterday evening was from Aberdeen, followed by the Glasgow sleeper train.
Some delegations boarded the trains at 11pm last night.
Stewart from Glasgow told Socialist Worker, “A group of firefighters in the FBU joined the queue for the train in full uniform. We have RMT and PCS members and many more with us. The atmosphere is fantastic. Passers by are asking us what we are doing, and wishing us luck. Watch out Tories!”
Hot on their heels were the early morning trains from Glasgow.
Keir was on the 5am train from Glasgow central. He said, “Our train is packed—there are 800 trade unionists from all walks of life. Teachers, nurses, students, council workers, voluntary sector campaigners , disability rights activists and more. The mood is buoyant and there is a feeling that today is going to be a good day.”
Hundreds of FE and university students lined up to board 5 coaches which left Glasgow at 11pm.
Pete Ramand reports: “250 students and 100 trade unionists assembled at 10pm to get on the coaches. There were huge queues round the block to get on. We set off at 11pm, people were already chanting “Tory scum here we come”—spirits are high and the mood is good.
“We have just arrived in London and formed into blocks to march to ULU to join the student contingent. We are already blocking roads as we march. We can’t wait to join trade unionists, campaigners and other students on the march. We want this Tory government of the rich to feel our anger today.”