The streets of central London were alive with resistance as tens of thousands joined the End Austerity Now demonstration today, Saturday. The People’s Assembly organisers said that up to 250,000 had taken part.
Thousands of people joined a similar demonstration in Glasgow organised by the STUC and the People’s Assembly Scotland.
The City of London financial district is normally deadly quiet at weekends but it came alive this lunchtime as chants surrounded the Bank of England.
People streaming off the hundreds of coaches booked from across England and Wales brought an array of banners with them.
Nicola Parks from Cardiff, in South Wales, told Socialist Worker, "We had seven coaches come today.
“They’ve cut public services and the NHS – but not the banks.”
Sarah Fildes came on one of the coaches from Manchester to her second-ever demo. She said, “We spent the first three or four days after the election result really depressed, we didn't sleep.
“Then we thought, we can't just sulk for next five years–we have to do something.”
That anger ran through the demonstration. East London health worker Ellie Johnson told Socialist Worker, “It’s disgusting what the Tories are doing. This is my first demonstration–the more people that show their support on demonstrations like these the better.”
Unite Against Fascism joint secretary Weyman Bennett slammed the scapegoating of migrants at the opening rally. He said, "It was not migrants that caused the crisis, it was that bank over there.”
CWU union general secretary Dave Ward, Labour MP Diane Abbott and victimised PCS union rep Candy Udwin were among other speakers greeted with cheers by the growing crowd.
Protests in towns and cities across Britain in the weeks building up to today brought in many people totally new to politics.
Further education student Madeleine Lynch said, “I’m here because I’m not happy the Tories got in. If they see how big this is, then they’ll have to take into account what people are saying.”
Meanwhile in Glasgow, former miner Gordon Scott was one of many that were returning to protesting.
“This is my first demonstration in many years,” he said. “But with the election of a Tory government, I can see no alternative but for people like me to become active again.”
Protesters marched in different blocs on the London protest – from trade unions to anti-racist campaigners and a noisy student section.
People brought hundreds of home-made placards and banners. One said, “What Charlotte Church said – and join a union”, while another simply said, “Fuck the fucking fuckers”.
The march snaked through the streets of London, past the exclusive Savoy hotel where security staff had erected a line of riot barriers to make sure the rich could take afternoon tea in peace.
National Gallery workers who are fighting privatisation greeted the front as it marched into Parliament Square.
Speakers addressed the final rally as people continued to stream in. NUT union general secretary Christine Blower said, “This is what resistance looks like – and we’re going to see a lot more of it.”
PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said to rapturous applause, “Why don’t all the unions strike to together and stop austerity in its tracks. If we all stopped work, we could stop austerity.”
Disabled People Against the Cuts (Dpac) activist Paula Peters agreed. She told Socialist Worker, “We need massive strikes now – that’s how we’re going to break the Tory government.”
Serwotka also called on people to register as supporters of the Labour Party and get Jeremy Corbyn elected.
Many people expressed frustration with Labour’s capitulation to austerity. Labour activist Matthew Fulton said, “The Labour Party should be supporting protests like this.
“We should be saying that no one should go hungry in Britain.”
Unite union assistant general secretary and People’s Assembly chair Steve Turner slammed the Tories’ attack on trade union rights. Other speakers included NUS vice-president further education Shakira Martin, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and singer Charlotte Church.
Today was a display of the depth of the rage against Tory austerity.
Housing worker Lilith Jones said, “The protest was much bigger than I expected – but I think we now need to hit the Tories harder.”