|Volume 46 Number 11, April 23, 2016||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
from the report by People's Assembly campaigner Tom Griffiths
On Saturday, April 16, at least 150,000 people descended on London to make key demands of the government.
As Sam Fairbairn, National Secretary of the People's Assembly, said, "When we organised this demonstration we had no idea how spectacularly the government would fail on all four of our key demands... They've thrown our NHS into crisis, they've decided to attack our education forcing all schools to become academies, they've refused to respond to the steel crisis and protect thousands of jobs and they've done nothing to address the housing crisis."
But after the shameful Panama Papers revelations last week, the demonstration also adopted the slogan, "Cameron must go". And looking out from the stage at the tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square, and the sea of "Cameron must go" placards, it was clear that everyone there wanted an immediate end to "one rule for the privileged and another rule for the many", Tory politics.
The media coverage of the day was mixed, but not the complete media blackout some might have feared. Although the Sunday headlines were of the usual bland, "go back to sleep Britain" kind, articles reporting on the demo could be found in all the major online news services and even the Daily Mail ran a piece reporting on the "150,000" protesters, with little of their usual sneering.
The People's Assembly Against Austerity was trending on social media all day on Sunday. The anti-austerity movement mounted a huge display of strength on Saturday and confidence is high. We're on the front foot and not stopping until we end Tory Austerity.
The speeches from Trafalgar Square were all united by the theme of solidarity across industries and employment sectors and across all parts of British society. John McDonnell said, "On behalf of Jeremy Corbyn and myself, on behalf of the Leadership of the Labour Party, I pledge you courage and determination and solidarity brothers and sisters." Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, joined him saying, "We have four demands, we want a publicly owned NHS in which the profit margin has no place... we want a real living wage not George Osborne's fake living wage... we want zero university tuition fees, no forced academies, and we want real council houses, real genuinely affordable housing and a secure tenancy for life, to deliver it we need change, we need to get rid of the Tories." Nurse Danielle Tiplady, moved the crowd (some to tears) with herimpassioned story from the front line of the health service, "I came into nursing because I want to care for every single one of you, but now someone like me from a different background will be blocked from going into the best profession in the world... George Osborne, Jeremy Hunt, the Tories, you have destroyed student nurses' dreams... Shame on you!"
A video message from Jeremy Corbyn was played to the crowd delivering a strong anti-austerity message, "The austerity we're in, at the moment, in Britain, is a political choice, not an economic necessity. The anti-austerity movement, here, in the United States, across Europe, is showing the way... It's in our hands to change society, it's democratic power that will bring about that change - and it's working."
Sam Fairbairn was clear about what the movement demands. He closed his speech by saying, "If you can bail out the banks in a matter of days then you can provide Health, Homes, Jobs and Education for everybody... but instead this government has been complicit in hiding money away in tax havens, stealing money from the majority while telling us at the same time 'we're all in this together'. That's why we're saying today Cameron must go. Cameron you must go now!"