As Tory welfare slasher Iain Duncan Smith guffawed along with his colleague George Osborne’s attacks on the poor yesterday, Wednesday, outside disabled protesters were blocking roads and running amok.
A national day of protests called by the People’s Assembly saw people take to the streets in anger in cities all over Britain. In London it coincided with a day of coordinated strikes.
Some 800 people joined a People’s Assembly evening demonstration outside parliament. They staged a “die-in” to represent the people who have died as a result of benefit sanctions, and released several black balloons.
Protester Helen told Socialist Worker, She told Socialist Worker, “I’m not the sort of person who protests. But the things that are happening and the austerity measures are targeted at the most poor people. A lot of people feel the same. I want to stand up and be counted.”
Sharri said, Socialist Worker, “I’m really angry about the attack on child tax credit. My mum could not have survived without child tax credits.
Some of my friends have got kids. One of my friends is a single mother. It’ll be much harder for her to cope now. It’s made me think I don’t want to have children.”
Police stole protesters’ megaphones. And when they confiscated a sound system, the crowd followed them. Hundreds sat down in the road demanding that police give the sound system back.
The London Underground was shut down as all four unions on the tube struck together. And strikers from Barnet council, Bromley council and the National Gallery rallied together in Trafalgar Square.
John Reid from the RMT Tube union responded to the accusation that choosing to strike on budget day was overtly political. “Guilty as charged,” he said. “We won’t sit by while the vermin in there cut the living standards of working class people.”
Earlier in the day Osborne had been unable to appear at the gates of Downing St because Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) protesters were bombarding it with balls shouting “balls to the budget”.
One protester yelled “He must have slipped out through the sewer with the rats—sorry, rats, that you had to have such company.”
Paula Peters from Dpac London announced, “We say to George Osborne, you know where you can stick your budget. We’re not gonna take any more cuts. David Cameron, get used to seeing us—we’re fighting back.”
Partially blind Raj Gill from Ealing Unite Community said, “Disabled people are already finding daily existence a struggle, after all the benefit cuts and now the closure of the Independent Living Fund. This government bullies harasses and traumatises us and only caters for the needs of the rich.
“Disabled people and working people need to unite—our fight is their fight.”
Some dropped a “Balls to the Budget” banner opposite Parliament. Inspired by the rejection of austerity in Greece they chanted, “They say cut back, we say OXI”.
Another 200 people protested in Newcastle. Delegates at the Unite union’s rules conference joined the demonstration in Brighton. In Birmingham some 250 people held a lively march through the town centre.
At the protest of about 60 people in Oxford, a 100 percent vote for strikes against contractor Carillion by hospital porters was announced. People cheered calls to show solidarity on their picket lines.
The protest in Portsmouth, called by Portsmouth Against Cuts Together, took the form of street theatre. Some 60 people joined the “tug of class war” between the 1 percent and the 99 percent—beating Cameron, a Fat Cat banker, the queen and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Portsmouth City Unison has agreed to put a coach to the demonstration at Tory Party conference in Manchester on 4 October.
In Manchester itself up to 300 people chanted, sang and listened to speakers denounce Osborne for attacking the poor and helping the rich.
There were speakers from Bedroom Tax campaigns, anti-cuts groups, anti-fracking campaigns as well as the RMT, Unison, Unite and the Trades Council.
Sam from Manchester People’s Assembly told Socialist Worker, “The savage cuts are hitting the most vulnerable in society. After today’s budget announcements people have got to start mobilising and they should come to Manchester during the Tory Party conference to show their anger”.
Wendy was part of a group of activists from Crewe. She said, “I had to retire early because of ill health. Now I find myself in position that I can’t work my way out of poverty. I have to put up or shut up. And I’m not prepared to shut up.”