Tag Archives: parliament square

The Protest Players – Part 1

This mini series of Blog Posts, all entitled ‘The Protest Players’ will look at recent protests, who organised them, who backs them and also poses questions around their methods and tactics. 

Do you know who you are backing? Are they the right way forward? How much power do they have? How do they operate? Are their tactics working? 

In part 1 of this mini series we look at the recent protests at the State opening of Parliament on 27th May 2015. Who was behind the protests? What happened on the day? What can we learn?

On 27th May 2015 at around 11.30am the Queen gave her speech at the State opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London. Earmarked for that day were two main protests, largely against austerity and cuts under a Conservative government.

On social media you could find several videos depicting the days protests including; 

Video from Nuzulu / Video from Urban Pictures / Video from BluelightTV

One thing is clear from these videos. Not one of these videos shows any form of protest or disruption of the State opening of Parliament, the very thing the protests were meant to target. Perhaps the protesters couldn’t get near to the event? 

This next video would suggest otherwise. In it, two men are arrested to prevent a breach of the peace for seemingly just having anti austerity placards on their person. They were situated at Parliament Square itself right at the time of the State Opening. 

Video of protesters being arrested at the State opening of Parliament at Parliament Square 

Why were these the only two lone soles to protest at Parliament Square at the time of the State Opening? Where was everyone else and who were the people behind organising the days protests?

The People’s Assembly against austerity had arranged for a protest on the day, to convene on Downing Street at 17.30. Hours after the State Opening had occurred.

The Peoples Assembly protest event page on Facebook

The second protest of the day was organised by a few groups, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), NUS london and The Brick Lane debates. This time it was arranged for Trafalgar Sqaure at 17.00. We will look at the main group that arranged this, NCAFC, later in the blog.
 

NCAFAC protest event page on Facebook
 

So why did The People’s Assembly and National Campaign against fees and cuts arrange protests on the same day, at different times and at different locations that had no influence or impact on the state opening of parliament? 

First we will examine The People’s Assembly. 

According to their website; 

‘The People’s Assembly Against Austerity was launched with a letter to the Guardian by the initial signatories below’

  • Tony Benn President, Coalition of Resistance
  • Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite the Union 
  • Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS 
  • Christine Blower General secretary, NUT
  • Michelle Stanistreet General secretary, NUJ
  • Manuel Cortez General secretary, TSSA
  • Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison
  • Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU
  • Bob Crow General secretary, RMT
  • Mick Whelan General secretary, Aslef
  • Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, NUT
  • Paul Mackney Former general secretary Natfhe (now UCU)
  • Vicky Baars NUS union development
  • Kevin Donnelly Trade Union Council JCC
  • Caroline Lucas MP
  • Katy Clark MP
  • Jeremy Corbyn MP
  • John McDonnell MP
  • Murad Qureshi London assembly member
  • Dawn Butler Former Labour minister for young citizens and youth engagement
  • Tariq Ali Author
  • John Pilger Journalist
  • Ken Loach Filmmaker
  • Owen Jones Writer
  • James Meadway Senior economist, New Economics Foundation
  • Wendy Savage & John Lipetz Keep our NHS Public
  • Merry Cross Disabled People Against the Cuts
  • John Hendy QC Co-chair, People’s Charter
  • John Hilary Director, War on Want
  • Sam Fairbairn National secretary, Coalition of Resistance
  • Imran Khan Solicitor, co-chair, People’s Charter
  • Rachael Newton People’s Charter
  • Romayne Phoenix Chair, Coalition of Resistance
  • Zita Holbourne Co-chair, Black activists rising against the cuts
  • Clare Solomon Vice-chair, Coalition of Resistance
  • Andrew Burgin Vice-chair, Coalition of Resistance
  • Colin Hampton Co-ordinator, National Unemployed Workers Centres Combine
  • Anita Wright Secretary, National Association of Women
  • Joginder Bains Association of Indian Women
  • Shang Gahonia Indian Workers Association
  • Carolyn Jones Director, Institute of Employment Rights
  • Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
  • Kate Hudson General secretary, CND
  • Bruce Kent Peace campaigner
  • Lee Hall Playwright
  • Roger Lloyd Pack Actor
  • Josie Long Comedian
  • Iain Banks Author
  • Arthur Smith Comedian
  • Roy Bailey Folk singer
  • Francesca Martinez Comedian
  • John Rees Counterfire editorial board
  • Natalie Bennett Leader of the Green Party England and Wales
  • Fred Leplat Socialist Resistance
  • Robert Griffiths General secretary, Communist Party of Britain
  • Bill Greenshields Chair, Communist Party of Britain
  • Richard Bagley Editor, Morning Star

  It goes on to say that the Assembly  ‘Is a broad united national campaign against austerity’

and ‘is linked to no political party’

It ‘Is based on affiliation by individual supporters, unions nationally and locally, anti-cuts campaigns, and other student, pensioner, unemployed, disabled people’s, women’s, Black people’s, youth and LGBT campaigning organisations’

and ‘Aspires to support, encourage, coordinate joint action, and facilitate a transfer of experience rather than to command’.

On their website a rookie member of The People’s Assembly completed a report on the days event. Read the full article at the link.

Article from queens speech state opening of parliament

Here though we wanted to focus on the two following paragraphs from that article.

“…. Jeremy Corbyn, (Labour) MP for Islington North voiced perhaps the defining words of the assembly: “Keep the spirit of that world you want to live in – not the nasty divided one we’re in,” he told the crowd..”

“…As Richard Burgon, Labour MP for East Leeds candidly called to the crowd. ‘Don’t wait for politics to fix it. Politics is broken…” 

 

Peoples Assembly Protesters outside Downing Street during the Queens Speech

We notice a common theme amongst the supporters and signatories that despite the Assembly insisting they do not support a political party it’s hard, almost impossible to imagine there is no Labour Party agenda or at least Labour will be using the Assembly as a platform for their Party message.

National Campaign against fees and cuts is a movement of students against tuition fees, education cuts and wider public service cuts and has been operating since 2010. It has the support of the NUS.

I think this is fairly straightforward with only two questions to ponder. 

Why are the the NCAFAC not affiliates to the People’s Assembly when Vicky Baara of NUS development is? Why did they also arrange their protest away from Parliament Square?

Now we have had a look at the groups involved let’s focus on the questions;

Why did both groups arrange their protests at 5pm or 5.30pm? The State opening of parliament occurred late morning into the early afternoon. What better way to make your point than to protest live on TV. 

Everyone has been talking about ‘fighting back’ and not giving the government any rest and protesting at every opportunity. As long as, it seems, we don’t upset too many. people. 

To keep the backing of the MP’s does the People’s Assembly have to conform? After all, the MP’s, even if every party is represented except a Tory one, can’t be seen to be condoning disruptive behaviour. It raises the question doesn’t it? A movement for the people, so long as the MPs don’t get shown up. Is this why the protest was arranged later in the day? Is this why the two protesters in Parliament square who were arrested were the only ones there at all during the State Opening. Are these the only two activists who can think for themselves?

What about the NCAFAC? What was there excuse? Could it be that to be ‘official’ they have to get the backing of the NUS? Would the NUS allow their students and membership to be seen to be disruptive at the State Opening? After all, the bite of the Unions seem to be weaker and weaker with every passing year. 

The likelihood is, and we haven’t verified this, that both groups had notified the police in advance of the protests which meant they were limited in their approach. 

Oddly enough with the People’s Assembly being as big as it is its a wonder why they had less supporters representing the PA than NCAFAC did. Even if they did eventually combine to march another long trek around half of London, leading nowhere but eventually back to Trafalgar Sqaure. 

Why does everything end up back at Trafalgar Square? Why do we march aimlessly around London for a couple of hours. Footage from the protest shows at one point everyone keeping to the pavement. Poor innocent pedestrians, must have taken ages to walk through that throng of people. Still, at least it meant the cars could move freely from A to B.

We witness one video of a member of Anonymous facing off against police all on his own, despite being surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of fellow protesters. Walking into and backing into the police line won’t get you very far, and it didn’t. Despite his best efforts, the crowd couldn’t be convinced to commit any sort of civil disobedience. 

The purpose here is not to lambaste the people taking part, after all, they are making an effort and doing more than most. No, the idea is to ask the questions. To make us question, what are we doing here? Who are we backing? Is this making the right impact. 

People will say my comments are divisive, I would say that two separate groups arranging two separate protests at two separate times of day both of which were totally irrelevant times, is the more divisive action. 

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The People’s Protest, Bouncing back from whence it came. 

You wouldn’t know it but on 2nd May 2015 the culmination of six months hard work in spreading the message and advertising of the People’s Protest and the ‘Bouncing Bombs’ event came to a head. 

  
Around 5k people had been officially invited. 800 had pledged to attend, 200 undecided and many more seemingly pledging to come but not putting their name to the event. A small sum in online advertising was paid out and in excess of 6k people had viewed various online promotional videos. 

3 weeks before the event took place Occupy officially announced they would be attending. 3 months prior the Anonymous collective had backed the event with advertising of their own. It was also Global Cannabis Day and the activist group ‘Feed the birds’ were attending under their own steam. 

It was a Saturday, a May Day bank holiday weekend no less, the weather was cloudy but dry, and to top it off it was pre-election weekend. Oh, and love him or hate him, Russell Brand was also putting in a show at some point over the weekend. 

What more could you ask for in terms of potential for a good crowd. So many positive factors a chance for so many groups to be heard before the election. 

Several other groups were informed officially or made aware through general online posts and advertising. 

Reclaim Brixton, London Black Revs, Perhaps the largest online anti-fracking community in ‘Fracking Hell UK’, even Student union groups and Unions were made aware through online posts. 

  
Predictions for the attendance from various quarters ranged between 2,000 and 10,000, with hope for far more. 

When the clock struck 11.45am on 2nd May outside Parliament (yes, Big Ben strikes at the quarter hour) we stood in awe at the amount of people in attendance. In awe at the fact that only around 10 people were visibly ready for the Bouncing Bombs event. Earmarked as a spectacle to launch footballs, tennis balls and rugby balls over into parliament territory. With 10 people, unless we wanted to be immediately arrested, there was little point. So we waited.

We carried on waiting and at around 12pm it was suggested that a game of casual football was started on the green opposite parliament with all the available balls. For an hour or so it was good. Children were playing football, grow men were doing their best to impress and one person even managed to hit a police officer with one of the footballs. A small victory. 

We can only do our best to galvanise people, but you can’t force people to turn up.

A far cry from when barriers used to surround the green to prevent anyone entering. 

1pm came and the People’s Protest was due to begin outside Downing Street. We heard that others had been up there earlier so we hoped that maybe a few more at least we’re mingling around. 

We couldn’t have been more wrong. A grand total of zero others were there. Not one placard in sight apart from our own. Even one of the protesters that joined us from the Parliament Square couldn’t resist in taking a selfie in front of the gates to Downing Street. If you can’t beat them.. Join them. 

Eventually we trudged back to Parliament Square where by now a fair few more had turned up although it was clear that they were there for Occupy and the Global Cannabis Day. 

Still, the numbers had only swelled to around 200, at best, and that might be being very generous. It may have been nearer 100. I would be surprised to hear if more were there. 

At Leicester Square on one of the adjoining junctions there was a brief sit down protest

So we, the People’s Protest naturally fitted ourselves in neatly with the Occupy crowd and to be fair, the day picked up. A good rousing sing-a-long, (not for no purpose, keep an eye on YouTube and itunes for an election special) a few stories told and a good old laugh had by all. 

It was decided that there should be a gathering outside Downing Street and as an act of civil disobedience we would march on the roads. And that’s what happened with a brief stop outside Downing Street. In fact that brief stop provided one of the most entertaining and funny moments of the day when a police officer confiscated one of the footballs still being kicked around. Cue a line of protesters following the police officer in question around a now stuck-in-situ coach chanting “who’s ball? Our ball” and “we want our ball back”. 

Eventually though the crowd moved on, flanked by police officers we marched to Trafalgar Square, Leicester Sqaure and near Oxford Street, this is where we broke off from the march ourselves. 

  
At Leicester Square on one of the adjoining junctions there was a brief sit down protest but as hordes of police officers exited their police wagons the crowd decided it wasn’t the time to be playing around and walked back from where they had come. We passed another horde of police officers heading toward the now finished sit-down protest. That was a lot of police for only a relatively small crowd. 

There the day ended, not withstanding a drink at a local pub in Victoria. 

On returning back home it became apparent that one or two lone voices were not happy that they had attended and found so few in attendance, blaming us for the inconvenience it had caused them. 

I met a guy who had travelled from St.Helens and another who had travelled from Bristol. They too were disappointed but made the most of the day and that’s all any of us could have done. 

There was potential for thousands to have attended but apathy reigns supreme in the UK and it is indeed shocking that so many people online talk a good game but when it comes to action they are found wanting. That is not so much of a judgement on people who live miles away, it will always be difficult to get people from the other side of the country, that’s expected, but London is a big place and even London couldn’t put together more than a couple of hundred… In total. 

thank you to the young girl that gave us some insight to maybe how things should be

We even met one chap who “had not been on anything like this before”, he lived in London but wanted to make the effort. 

We can only do our best to galvanise people, but you can’t force people to turn up.

So what is the problem? It might be too early to tell but this is our starter for 10. If an established group like Occupy, for all their brilliant and commendable work, can’t gain more than 50 supporters on a weekend day, and if the GLOBAL cannabis March can’t attract more than 150 and Anonymous can’t attract more than 5 people and we, for the small name we are, can’t attract more than 5 ourselves..then to us that signals a huge problem with activism in this country. Yet you look online and there are thousands of us. 

Maybe we are all too far apart in terms of distance to make any meaningful difference. Maybe Occupy is too niche, maybe Anonymous is running its course, Maybe people are just too lazy to be motivated enough. 

We don’t have the answers but right now, despondent is the word. We can only hope that something one day triggers the masses. 

One special mention of the day goes to a young sixteen year old girl we met on Parliament Square. She told us that her mother even encourages her to take actions and was even on UAF marches from the age of 5. She was confident, clearly intelligent and knew what she was talking about and a pleasure to talk to and most of all she was willing to lead and take actions herself. The best kind of activist.

  
Originally she told us she was there for ‘Bouncing Bombs’, She wasn’t there specifically under the name of Occupy, she didn’t need a mask. 

When the country returns to activism like we witnessed in the 70’s and 80’s, very much like this young girl seems to be the modern day personification of, then we may stand a fighting chance. 

Our future, here at RevSoc will continue but in what form may be open to debate. 

Thank you Occupy for making our day worthwhile, and thank you to Feed the Birds for managing to galvanise a few people. Thank you to the few that did turn up to Bouncing Bombs and thank you to the young girl that gave us some insight to maybe how things should be. Independent, for the people, all inclusive. Very much in our eyes what the People’s Protest should have been. 

Link to Video on Bouncing Bombs

Link to video of Occupy Democracy 

Fuck off back to Eton Video

Where do we go from here?

For the last few years you could be forgiven for thinking that protests change nothing, petitions change nothing and violence also changes nothing. You would be right.  

In the last few years we have seen a million people march against Iraq with no effect on government policy. We went to war anyway. There has been a TUC march or two with around half a million protesting with no change to the Austerity measures. There have been smaller protests such as the Anti Bedroom Tax protests, anti badger cull, anti ATOS and also movements have held regular protests such as Anonymous and Occupy, all with no effect bar some minor concessions n some areas.

Next comes potentially the largest protest of 2015 so far. The People’s Protest. Some may argue that calling it the ‘biggest protest so far’ is a step too great but I don’t think it is.  

  
This event has been in the planning for the past six months, by any standards that is quite some time although I concede that our name is not known and as such our reach has been limited but there is much to be positive about. Anonymous have backed this event and are supporting it. ‘Feed the birds’ are attending as part of Global cannabis day which happens to be on the same day. Occupy are attending for a week and have a specific event lined up for 2nd May. We have a fairly unique event taking place on the day called ‘Bouncing Bombs’ and even Russell Brand (yes, we know, loved by some, hated by others) is also likely to put in an appearance over the weekend if the photo of him holding the Occupy leaflet is anything to go by. 

So as you can see, potentially this could be big. We have even gone so far as to attempt to make the event known to the Unions including the student unions, the anti-fracking community and we have tonight contacted London Black Revs, responsible for the year of action 2015 which held the event ‘Reclaim Brixton’ to see if they will promote it and send a contingent. 

  
We have not gone so far as to contact the unions in any official capacity because we know full well the Unions will not promote this event amongst their membership due to it being an unofficial event in every respect. Too much risk involved you see.

‘Revolutionary Socialism’ has one primary goal and that is to unite everyone. Not under our name, but unde their own names. The ethos of our group on FB is that everyone should come together regardless of their own individual ideologies but for the greater good. Their is more power in numbers than there is not and there is far too much division amongst like minded groups and movements when there doesn’t need to be. We believe it is counter productive and more can be achieved together. This is why this was called the ‘People’s Protest’. 

We don’t begin to imagine how many will really attend, maybe it will only be 500. Maybe it will be 4,000, maybe 10,000 even with some luck and a miracle 100,000 but it won’t be for the want of trying. 

For us, the numbers attending will be interesting and will determine what the post-protest blog post will read as. If the event is a failure in terms of numbers then harsh questions should rightfully be asked. If it is a success them the call will have gone answered and perhaps set a presedent for how protests should be run. 

Where do we go from that point? What is the next move for us? We will continue to promote unity amongst all groups for the greater good. During the promotion for this event we have seen many comments that have led us to believe our approach has been the right one.  Several people called into question the involvement of Anonymous. Some people felt the event was too off the cuff and wasn’t ‘official’ enough (read: Union organised), some felt that the involvement of Feed the Birds was wrong. You can’t please everyone and that’s why the pitch has to be right. Appealing to as many people as possible. It’s a shame it has to be like that but this is the issue we mentioned above, too much division with ideology. We need to it aside and that may just start with a movement for everyone to unite. 

If the Unions don’t respond in any way, if London Black Revs don’t take up the call, if the Anti-Fracking community have no input what will that say about unity? 

Of course there may be many other reasons we are unaware of that would determine the involvement or lack of involvement of others but we can only speculate at this stage and come May 2nd through to May 7th we will see what occurs and we will have a clearer picture. 

Will this just be another protest that gets forgotten about as soon as it’s finished? Quit possibly. But persist we must. No one else will do our bidding for us, so we must. 

Come May 2nd we will see what transpires and how much impact calling for unity can have or maybe what little impact it has and what we need to do to address the shortcomings. 

People’s Protest – 1 Week to go!

So with one week to go until the People’s Protest in London (see below for full details) we are hoping to have a good turn out. If you come across this blog post please share it far and wide and let others know and come along yourself. Plenty is going on and with it being Pre-Election weekend it’s a chance to get your voice heard. 

Coming up on 2nd May, 2015

#peoplesprotest People’s Protest

https://www.facebook.com/events/610873779017276/

No representation no vote
https://www.facebook.com/events/401581999966933/

#bouncingbombs Bouncing Bombs
https://www.facebook.com/events/1069608643064915/

Global Cannabis Day
https://www.facebook.com/events/846876135383862/

Occupy Democracy
https://www.facebook.com/events/1542806512652040/