Socialist Worker

Carnegie Library sit-in to stop cuts rocks Labour councillors in Lambeth

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2498

Occupiers greet supporters outside Carnegie Library

Occupiers greet supporters outside Carnegie Library (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The occupation against the closure of Carnegie Library in Lambeth, south London, entered its sixth day as Socialist Worker went to press.

The sit-in began last Thursday when people refused to leave at closing time on the last day.

The Labour-led council has now gone to court in an attempt to get rid of the occupiers.

Councillors would like to create the impression of isolated militants inside. The reality is that occupiers include parents and children, and run readers’ groups and the chess club.

The protest has involved hundreds of local residents, library users, families, council workers and ­campaigners. There have been daily and nightly protests, some 200-strong, a noisy 14-car cavalcade and a constant stream of solidarity visitors.

The Labour Party in Lambeth is in crisis over the scale of opposition.

Councillors have desperately tried to attack the occupiers on social media but are under attack themselves from big chunks of their own party’s membership.

The council wants to close three of the borough’s ten libraries and spend millions reopening two of them as fee-charging private gyms run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).

Even local Labour MP Kate Hoey called it a “grubby deal”.

Farewell

Nearly 200 people joined a ­farewell party inside the library, which led to the occupation last week.

Jeff from Friends of Carnegie Library spoke. He said, “They see this building as a piece of real estate. We see it as a public service.”

Lottie Davies, a local resident who was part of the sit-in, said, “I’m surprised more people haven’t questioned the links between ­councillors and GLL.”

Rob Jones and Rosie Protheroe are also sitting-in at Carnegie. Their twin 11 month old daughters are the youngest occupiers.

“The council have been shutting stuff for years,” said Rob. “We don’t need a gym here—there are two down the bottom of the road.”

Rosie added, “There’s always nice things for the kids to do during the holidays at the library that are free.”

Labour members launched a call for “Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and other Labour leaders to go to the occupation to discuss with the campaigners what we can do to fight the Tories’ cuts”.

Labour’s London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan is also under pressure to speak out.

Occupiers have set an example—it’s time Labour followed it.

Send a message of solidarity to the occupiers at lambethlibrariescampaign@gmail.com. More at defendthe10-lambeth.org.uk

'Join our fightback' - a message from the occupation

Michaela Loebner in the occupation

Michaela Loebner in the occupation (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Labour council in Lambeth has a fight on its hands. We have been overwhelmed by the solidarity of ordinary people who want us to win.

We have had enough of the cuts. There is enough money to fund all of our public services—let the rich tax dodgers pay.

Councillors tell us their hands are tied when it comes to funding services. But talking about “difficult decisions” and blaming the Tories is not enough.

When is Labour going to resist cuts, not implement them?

Libraries provide more than those who want to shut them understand. But Lambeth council refuses to listen. Councillors are not representing us so we refused to let them get away with it—we occupied.

Our strength has been the unity between public sector workers and people who use the services they provide.

If our struggle inspires others then it’s worth it. Bring your union and campaign banners and join our protest this Saturday.

Michaela Loebner in the occupation

Sat 9 April, 11.30am, Carnegie Library, 188 Herne Hill Rd, London SE24 0AG

Unions must take a lead

Library workers have been a central part of the campaign. They have led the way against the council’s cuts with unofficial then official walkouts.

This inspired over 85 percent of Lambeth Unison members to demand a ballot for a council-wide strike last month.

Occupiers have taken an inspiring stand but alone it may not be enough. A council-wide strike is the kind of action that can halt the council’s cuts.

But Unison London region is dragging its heels. Workers are still waiting for the ballot.

Some worry that Labour’s London election campaign weighs heavier on officials’ minds.

But the union’s job is defending workers and services. Workers in Lambeth are up for a fight—it’s time the union matched their spirit.


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News
Tue 5 Apr 2016, 15:40 BST
Issue No. 2498
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