“I’ve never been on a demo that’s going to be as big as this one,” Connor told Socialist Worker. “Tens of thousands say they’ll go. We might even get 100,000—that would be great.”
Connor is a young activist who works at Gregg’s bakers in Oxford. He’s helping to build support for the People’s Assembly End Austerity Now demonstration in London on 20 June.
“The Tories are constantly attacking the most vulnerable in society,” he said. “A lot of young people’s mental health services are going to get their budgets cut in Oxford.
“Homeless people are getting fined £1,000 in some areas. It’s just pissing me off.”
Connor set up an anti-austerity group after the Tories won last month’s general election. “Me and a few mates decided that we would go down to the Fuck the Tories demo in London on the Saturday after the election,” he explained.
“I set up Anti-Austerity Oxford after that. I thought, there’s a lot of people in Oxford who think the same.
“A lot of people hear the numbers of how many people voted Conservative and realise this is not a government that anyone wants.”
Connor is just one of thousands of people preparing to take to the streets for the first national demonstration against austerity since the Tories’ victory. Many of those people are new to politics—but desperate to fight back.
York student Heather is also organising for the 20 June in London. She told Socialist Worker, “This will be my first demonstration. I’m really looking forward to it—I just knew I had to go on it.
“I’m angry about all the public services the Tories are cutting—and the way they scapegoat migrants and other groups.
“This economic situation was caused by the bankers. They try and trick people into thinking that the problem was caused by benefit claimants and migrant workers—and the people who caused the problem get away with it.”
Heather added, “There was a lot of anger after the election, but also a sense of defeat—and I think a lot of people still feel that.
“We need to channel that sense of defeat into more positive action. So I think a lot of people are interested in the demo.”
There’s certainly been a lot of interest in reigniting the fightback —with outbreaks of resistance around Britain.
Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people have joined anti-austerity protests in different towns and cities since the election.
The week after it, as many as 4,000 people joined an anti-Tory protest organised by seven sixth form students in Bristol.
In the following weeks, more than 1,000 joined marches in both Cardiff and Sheffield. And some 2,000 took to the streets in Manchester, while thousands joined a number of militant protests in central London.
School student Will was on the London protest on the day of the queen’s speech, when the Tory government outlined fresh attacks.
He told Socialist Worker, “When you have more and more marches like that and people rally together, that’s when you get a real sense of our power.
“I had never experienced that before—I’ve been to a few Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) marches, but nothing like that.
“With the possibility of 100,000 people on 20 June there’s a real promise that the march will amplify the atmosphere that I experienced on that protest.”
Susan, another activist in Oxford, joined the protest there. She told Socialist Worker, “I found out about the protest by chance. I went to it because of the cuts in funding for anti-homophobic and transphobic bullying work in schools.
“I heard about the People’s Assembly there and got involved in building for 20 June because of that.”
Like many others Susan isn’t someone who was very politically active before now. “It’s a new experience for me,” she said. “It’s very interesting—and I found it really easy to get involved. They’re very welcoming to new people.
“I haven’t been on a big demo like this will be. I think it will be very positive. It will be all about coming together for a common goal.”
An anti-austerity protest will also take place in Glasgow on the day, called by the Scottish TUC, the People’s Assembly Scotland and others. There has been resistance across Scotland in the run-up to the demo.
Angela is an activist in Glasgow. She told Socialist Worker, “There haven’t been as many people out on the streets in Scotland, because of the Scottish National Party win.
“But there have been disputes in Scotland such as indefinite strikes by homelessness case workers in Glasgow and the Dundee porters.
“And we had a protest in Glasgow that was really angry. Speaker after speaker got up to talk about what the cuts mean for them.”
People’s Assembly groups have held big public meetings in the run-up to 20 June. Some 300 people attended one in Milton Keynes on Wednesday of last week.
Kevin is one of the main organisers there. He told Socialist Worker, “There’s been a groundswell of huge numbers of people going to protests and meetings after the general election.
“There hasn’t been a meeting this size in Milton Keynes since Tony Benn came to speak years ago.”
Computer programmer Chris was at the meeting. He told Socialist Worker, “People were very angry, but also quite positive and happy that there was so many of us.
“I’m expecting a carnival atmosphere on 20 June—there will be so many people. I went to the Iraq war protest in 2003. That was massive. That’s the last time I saw coaches booked like this. That’s a good sign.”
Chris is right—coaches to the demo are filling up fast. Some 11 coaches have been booked to come down from South Yorkshire alone.
And there are at least five coaches booked in the North East, with another four from Manchester.
Smaller areas are also finding an unprecedented level of interest in transport to London.
Audrey is a teacher and activist in Lancaster. She told Socialist Worker, “We always organise transport to protests from Lancaster—we usually just end up putting on a minibus for a few people.
“But this has been much bigger, with people asking to come who wouldn’t normally.
“The other week we filled Market Square in Lancaster with about 20 people leafleting for the demo.
“Now we’ve already filled one coach and booked another which is also picking up in Preston—and we’re thinking about another if we can get funding.”
Garth, a student at Sussex University, has had a similar experience. He told Socialist Worker, “A lot of people who wouldn’t usually come to protests are saying they’re coming to this.
“Some of my friends who aren’t really into politics are interested in coming. After the election, seeing what the Tories are trying to do, people are saying we need to do something.”
Many of those going on the protest say it must signal the start of a bigger fightback against the Tories.
Susan said, “We need to move forward after 20 June. In the past people have got together and then just stopped fighting. We have to continue the fight. We have to make sure we do things to involve everybody.”
Kevin agreed. “We need to build a broad social movement made up of everybody with common sense who wants to stop this,” he said.
Connor argued, “It can’t just end at the demo. The unions need to take the lead. They need to be stern about striking against austerity. And we need a more united left.”
Campaigners new and old need to use the demos as a springboard for building the kind of action that Kevin, Susan and Connor want to see.
Garth said, “I was on one of the protests in London after the election—that was really good. It felt like there was real unity with all the people there.
“It showed that we can unite against the common enemy. And 20 June is going to be huge—it’s going to send a message to people and show that there’s going to be resistance.”
Details of the demonstrations
London: Assemble 12 noon, Bank of England, Queen Victoria St, City of London for a march to Parliament Square. Nearest tube Bank
Glasgow: Rally from 12 noon until 4pm, George Square. Co-organised by the Scottish TUC
Coaches for the People’s Assembly demonstration have been organised from all over England and Wales. Here’s where you can book your tickets.
- Birmingham 8.45am, call 07977057902
- Bournemouth train station, 6.30am, go to on.fb.me/1RPhQzM, Tickets £12
- Bolton contact Andrea on email@example.com or 01204338905
- Bradford St George’s Square, 7.30am, Contact Roger 07814709853, Tickets £20/£10
- Brighton train station, 10.05am, go to j20brighton.eventbrite.co.uk
- Bristol Anchor Rd, Harbourside, 8.15am, go to bit.ly/1cBK8h5
- Calderdale contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cambridge Queens Rd, 10am, contact email@example.com
- Cardiff/Newport contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Carlisle Contact Fiona email@example.com go to on.fb.me/1Gc7Qg4
- Chesterfield/Matlock contact firstname.lastname@example.org 07919486101
- Colchester Crouch St, 9.30am, Chelmsford Park P&R, 10am, contact email@example.com
- Cornwall Go to on.fb.me/1MsyrGs
- Coventry city centre, 9am, contact 07803501639
- Darlington Dolphin Centre, 6.30am, Tickets £20/£10, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Derby Full St, 7.30am, contact email@example.com
- Doncaster Market Place, Premier Inn, 7.30am, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dudley 7.45am, contact 07534246158 email@example.com
- Durham Students Union, New Elvet, 6am, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gloucestershire/Stroud contact email@example.com
- Hartlepool Town Hall, 5:30am, Tickets £30/£20, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Harlow bus station, 6am, tickets £20/£10, contact email@example.com go to on.fb.me/1IhBoZ6
- Huddersfield George Hotel, 7am, Contact Roger on 07814709853, tickets £20/£10
- Hull coming soon
- Lancaster/Preston Dalton Square, 7am and Adelphi Roundabout, UCLAN, 7.30am, Contact Hilary 07817108649, tickets £10/£5
- Leeds coming soon
- Manchester National Express station, 6.30am, go to on.fb.me/1QwnmVn
- Middlesbrough Town Hall, 6am, tickets £30/£20, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Milton Keynes Central, 9.30am, contact Kevin 07809331697
- Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central Station, 6am, go to on.fb.me/1QwnHr6, contact email@example.com
- Newcastle-under-Lyme School St, 7.45am, tickets £20/£10, contact 07778913528 or northstaffs.peoplesassembly.yahoo.co.uk
- Norfolk Royal Theatre St, Norwich, 7.45am, tickets £5/donation, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nottingham Forest recreation ground, 8am, email@example.com 07599735853, go to bit.ly/1EZECvn
- Oxford Taylor Instiute, St Giles, 9.30am, go to bit.ly/1HPKgCt, contact 07890081211
- Peterborough coming soon
- Plymouth Home Park P&R, 7am, tickets £20/£10, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Portsmouth tickets £10/£5, contact Ann-Marie 07583354674
- Rhondda—Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and Pontypridd, contact email@example.com or go to on.fb.me/1FZsaji
- Sheffield The Hubs on Paternoster Row, 8am, tickets £12/£6, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shrewsbury coming soon
- Southampton 8.30am, tickets £3/£1, go to bit.ly/1H8gNrA, contact email@example.com
- Southend 9am, tickets £5, go to bit.ly/1GcdXB2
- Stoke-on-Trent/Stafford Glebe St, Stoke, 7.30am, Stafford railway station, 8.15am, tickets £20/£10, contact 07778913528 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Suffolk contact email@example.com
- Sunderland/South Shields South Shields 5.45am, Sunderland, 6.15am, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Swindon 8.30am, more details coming soon
- Telford coming soon
- Thanet Ramsgate station, 9.30am, Broadstairs station, 9.45am, Margate station, 10am, tickets £10/£5, contact email@example.com
- Walsall 8.15am, contact 07881403958
- Wolverhampton Faulkland St, 7.45am, contact 07932797139 firstname.lastname@example.org
- York Memorial Gardens, Leeman Rd, 7am, Tickets £25/£15, go to yorkjune20coach.eventbrite.co.uk
This list is taken from the People’s Assembly website. If your transport isn’t listed email email@example.com