Saturday, March 28, 2009

Put People First protest

Placards, papier mache models, balloons, flags, socialists, trade unionists, anticapitalists, celebrities, musicians, comedians, NGOs, samba bands, brass bands, racy chants, ingenious slogans and garish attire. There is your protest report in one sentence, if it can be called a sentence. To elaborate. The police estimate that about 35,000 people attended today's protest for "jobs, justice, and climate", which I guess means there was at least double that. So, it was a good protest. And it was a broad one with a huge variety of different forces uniting to resist the impact of the recession on the working class. This has created a good basis for future unity, I would think. And as important, it was an internationalist protest, with a good contingent of French Italian trade unionists present (I got footage of them singing the Internationale), and very little sign of the 'British jobs for British workers' nonsense beyond one or two eejits who tried and failed to get a chant of that kind going. The SWSS students were far noisier with their 'Unemployment and inflation are not caused by immigration/Bullshit, come off it, the enemy is profit' number.

I don't see it mentioned in the (copious) media reports, but there was one hitch in that the police massively over-reacted to some sit-down protest staged by a small number of anarchists and decided to stop the greater part of the protest from marching on to Hyde Park. The front part of the protest had been at the park listening to speeches for well over an hour before the rest arrived. Curiously, they do mention that 200 "anarchists" who wanted to attend were "kept separate" from the protest by the police. I didn't see anything like that, and it would be a disgrace if it were true. All of this would seem to be part of the continued effort to demonise the protests against the G20 on April 1st and 2nd. The rally itself, aside from being windswept and rainy, consisted of a mixture of video presentations, performances and speeches - on that basis, you might think there was little to distinguish this from the Bob n Bono festival back in 2005. It is true that the union leaders and NGOs that organised this are not interested in militant action. That's a given. Even so, this was a far more political event than G8, and it exposed much more raw anger. The speeches that went down best were the most militant (Brendan Barber's rather bland presentation was given the standard polite dismissal). Susan George got a good cheer from the crowd for saying that "the banks are ours, and should be treated as public utilities". Hell yes - nationalise the banks in full: it's as easy as Lloyds TSB, as simple as HSBC. And let's make them serve us instead of sending out letters advising us that we have been charged an extra eight pounds on a debit card payment because there was insufficient funds in our account. As it is, I think George was far more moderate than the crowd, from whom I heard some quite delicious suggestions as to what exactly might be done with the bankers.

Anyway, here is a slideshow of pictures:

And here is some footage:

This is the French Italian trade unionists singing the Internationale:

You can see all the footage on this playlist, I think: