So unless you live under a rock (or in foreignlands) you’ll be aware that on Saturday, an estimated half a million people took to the streets of London to protest against the cuts enacted by the coalition government. The “We’re all in this together” line doesn’t seem to have worked terribly well. This was my experience.
It’s 1.30am on Saturday morning. I’m not only awake and dressed, I am raring to go. I leave the house, kiss my children goodbye and drive down to Glasgow to meet up with Glasgow women’s drumming band, SheBoom who have very kindly offered me a place on the train. I know only one person who’ll be on this trip, so when I arrive at Central station I’m pretty nervous. Not helped by realising that I’ve left my mobile phone on my bed and have no time to comfortably get home & back.
We board the bus to Edinburgh and then the train from Edinburgh to London. I sit by the window, watching hundreds of people of all ages, genders, race and religion board the train with their placards. I’m surprised by the number of children. Surely they must be exhausted? It’s 4am after all, I’m exhausted. But this march, this demonstration of the will of the people is about more important things than adhering to bedtime. If it had been possible, I would have brought at least one of my children with me. I settle down in my seat, thinking over the issues that are key to me – education, jobs, healthcare – and try and get some sleep listening to music.
6am and I wake up passing Berwick upon Tweed, a place I spent much of my gloriously spent teenage years. A town where 60% of the working population are employed in the service industry, I contemplate the hits they must be taking as a community. Slow growth & high inflation leading to less leisure spending must be hitting the area hard. 25% cut in the winter fuel allowance for elderly people and the closing of the SureStart programme affects both young and old. This song comes on my MP3 player, it seems apt.
Eventually we arrive in London, delayed arrival by around a half hour because there are no platforms available at Kings Cross for us to disembark. This boosts my spirits as I imagine perhaps the early estimates of 100,000 protestors to be somewhat scant. Embankment station is closed and so we travel to Charing Cross and arrive to a street packed with people. It’s an hour and a half before the march is due to leave and London appears to have ground to a halt. Buses are at a standstill, nothing is moving. The band have to get to Embankment station to collect the drums, but every street down to Embankment is blocked by serious-looking policemen with strict instructions. The crowd is so heavy that we end up being separated many times, each grabbing onto the woman in front in a desperate bid to snake through the thousands of good-natured but tightly packed people. I see Glasgow Uni protesters and I’m glad the students are there.
We eventually get to the drums with all members present & correct. Apologies for my terrible photography but here you go.
Due to having to be moved with all the drums, the bottles of water needed to keep the drummers hydrated have been abandoned leaving us with one litre of water to support 25 drummers for at least 3 hours. I am amazed by the power of the noise as SheBoom sets off. To give you a very small idea, this is a (relatively quiet!) video I found on flickr.
For three hours we very slowly marched from Embankment, past the Houses of Parliament along Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square. Every single person I saw was angry – we all were! Hence us being at the march in the first place – but I witnessed no violence, no thuggery, no baiting of the police. From my perspective, it was a completely peaceful protest. At Trafalgar Square, I left the march for a few hours R&R with family and watching the news was my first encounter with the violence.
Let me reiterate here – estimates now say that around a half million marchers were in London on Saturday, which is not kicking the backside off the entire population of Glasgow – news reports were suggesting 75 violent protestors. The Met are confirming 214 arrests in total. That is 0.04% of the entire demonstration. So why isn’t it the march itself, the content and the concerns of the UK population being reported? Why is every single news outlet focusing on the actions of the few?
At 8.30pm I crossed back into London to get the bus home and again, saw absolutely no violence. Actually I saw nothing of merit whatsoever and I’m sure that for a huge proportion of the marchers their experiences will be similar. A fantastically organised march, largely peaceful and with clear motivation.
Which is why reading this story in the Guardian last night made me want to rip people’s heads off. Without leaving any time to give the impression that the protestors concerns were being examined and addressed, Vince Cable announced that the 50% tax rate is being cut.
Yes, we truly are in this together.
I’m utterly unsurprised and yet still devastated by this callously quick response to the constituents of this Government.
Posted under me
This post was written by Vonnie on March 28, 2011