Socialist Worker

Protests over coronavirus safety rattle the Tories - we need more of them

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2705

Protesters at Barnsley hospital last week

Protesters at Barnsley hospital last week


The mood against the Tories is beginning to be seen more strongly on the streets. A number of cavalcades, stunts and socially-distanced protests took place on Thursday.

It was a glimmer of the widespread but generally confined anger that exists over the government’s reckless manoeuvres.

Many action were timed to coincide with the clapping for NHS staff and other frontline workers. Others were stand-alone events.

On Thursday morning activists gathered outside Barnsley hospital as the night shift came off. George Arthur said, “There was lots of support from staff when we called for schools not to rush to reopen.

A cavalcade protest gathered at Kings College Hospital in south London

A cavalcade protest gathered at King's College Hospital in south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


“It followed another protest on Monday in the town centre protestingagainst the message of Boris Johnson's broadcast last Sunday.

“We stood outside a building site where 250 workers returned last week. Trade council delegates and local campaign groups wanted to show we should not let the Tories force us back into unsafe workplaces.”

On Thursday evening in Wigan, activists report “a brilliant cavalcade outside the hospital. There was a biker gang first followed by a giant collection of farm vehicles”.

In Manchester nurse Karen Reissmann reported, “Fantastic reception at Wythenshawe hospital in south Manchester. Staff loved both our banners—‘No return till it's safe’ and ‘Boris, don't clap us and then plot a two year pay freeze’. Lots wanted photos.

“Plus two British Airways (BA) staff came to clap and also loved our message. They felt BA boss Willy Walsh had treated them as badly as Johnson has treated NHS.

Farm vehicles joined the protest in Wigan

Farm vehicles joined the protest in Wigan


“We agreed by popular request to go back next week.”

Bristol also saw a 12-car cavalcade to the Bristol Royal Infirmary hospital. Huw Williams said, “There were twice as many cars as last week. The best thing is to do something rather than be passive.

“The Tories will fight tooth and nail for the interests of those at the top. We need to mobilise our side.”

In Southport in north west England dozens of Royal Mail vehicles drove past the hospital in a show of unity and support.

Similar events took place in several other areas including Pennfields and Merridale.

The Covid Action Group in Wolverhampton reported on Thursday, “This evening grandparents, parents and children from our community stood in solidarity with teachers, demanding we only return to school or work when it's safe. We had a socially-distanced procession between three local primary schools.”

Oxford Covid Action group had cars going around the Barton and Risinghurst estates calling on people “to help protect the NHS and stop the transmission of Covid-19 by keeping the lockdown going, not returning to work until it is safe and not opening the schools until it is safe”.

Protesters in Wolverhampton

Protesters in Wolverhampton


In south London a calvacade protesting against the lifting of the lockdown ended with the 8 o’ clock clap showing solidarity with NHS front line workers at King’s College Hospital.

There was then a socially-distanced protest in support of NHS and care workers.

Nicola Field said, “We were inspired by the actions we saw happening around the country. Members of Southwark Covid Action Group decided we wanted to do something similar.

“Four cars and two cyclists met up in Peckham Lidl car park where we stuck flyers on our cars and made placards.

“The cars followed the cyclists to Camberwell, chanting and sounding our horns. I saw many people punch the air and clap when they saw us.”

Protesters held placards demanding PPE for health staff and no return to work until it’s safe.

A King’s health worker thanked protesters for being there saying, “I felt very good seeing that someone can still perceive what’s happening.”

Nicola said, “We chanted, ‘PPE, test and track, until it’s safe we’re not going back’. People at bus stops joined in with us and it was a marvellous, defiant atmosphere.”

There were two cavalcades through Tottenham in north London to the North Middlesex hospital. They were organised by Haringey Covid Action Network with the support of the Day-Mer Turkish and Kurdish organisation.

Protesters in south London

Protesters in south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


There was also a cavalcade protest at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. “Eight cars took part with loads of posters and banners—and we also had a banner drop in the main city square earlier,” says Phil Turner.

Protests are clearly unsettling the Tories.

According to the Health Service Journal, NHS staff in London have been warned by national regulators not to take part in public protests.

NHS England and NHS Improvement’s London regional team sent an email to all five sustainability and transformation partnerships in the capital warning staff.

It said the regulator had been notified by the Metropolitan Police of a “spontaneous” protest involving ten protesters at Downing Street holding a banner which said “We saved Boris. Now give us a pay rise.”

The best response to such bullying is to hold many more of the actions we saw last week, and to back fights like the one against reopening schools

Karen said, “We should all get our trade unions to produce posters for NHS and other public sector workers telling Johnson to stop clapping as his proposed pay freeze makes clear even when we save his life he has no respect for us.”


Get involved

Sunday 17 May, 5pm: People before profit health worker Covid activists’ meeting. “Fighting for safety at work, resisting job cuts and austerity”. Go tohttps://www.facebook.com/events/705379723549490/

Weds 20 May, 6pm: People before profit health worker Covid activists’ meeting – “No return to unsafe workplaces and schools” with Jeremy Corbyn and others including from the NEU. Go tohttps://www.facebook.com/events/274469033724696/


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