Anti-cuts march: the protesters
From mother and toddler groups to anarchists – via off-duty police officers – the protesters will come from all sectors of societyMap of proposed routes. Click for larger picture. Source: Guardian
Trade unionists are likely to make up the overwhelming bulk of today's demonstrators. The TUC is predicting between 100,000 and 200,000 – although some think the figure could be far higher – with delegations travelling to London from almost all of the 55 affiliated unions. While the majority are expected to arrive on public transport, 828 coaches and at least 10 trains have been chartered to bring people from as far afield as Cornwall and Inverness. The TUC is providing more than 1,500 stewards and bands will provide entertainment along the route.
Activists from last year's student protests, which saw tens of thousands take to the streets to oppose the rise in university tuition fees and cuts to post-16 education, have been mobilising for the protest for several weeks. Thousands are expected to join a "feeder march" outside the University of London student union building in Bloomsbury at 10am before making their way to the Embankment, where the main body of the TUC march is congregating.
There have been several student occupations at universities around the UK in the run-up to today's protest, and activists say they are planning a range of "direct action" events to coincide with the main march. Students say the movement has been bolstered since Christmas by an influx of experienced activists from the environmental and anti-capitalist movements.
UK Uncut, a peaceful direct action group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and protest against corporate tax avoidance, is calling on its supporters to occupy and close down scores of shops on Oxford Street.
Since it was formed, UK Uncut has forced the temporary closure of branches of more than 100 high-street stores including Vodafone, Topshop and Boots, which it accuses of having avoided billions of pounds in tax – a claim disputed by the companies. During its last two days of action activists targeted high-street banks, which they argue are largely responsible for the economic crisis.
More than a dozen separate UK Uncut groups from around the country will head to Oxford Street at 2pm, where they will stage 14 separate protests before descending on a new, as yet unannounced, target at 3.30pm. Actor Sam West and comedians Josie Long and Mark Thomas will be joining in the protests.
Parents and toddlers
Thousands of families and young children are expected to join the demonstration. Among them will be a coachload of "mums and toddlers" from Hampshire, who are demonstrating against the closure of their Sure Start centres in the county. "So many people rely on these centres and we are going to lose a third of them," said Catherine Ovenden, who is planning to bring her two children, Lily, two, and Amy, three, on the march. "This is going to have a huge impact and people are really angry."
Pensioners from across the country will be marching in a dedicated bloc in Saturday's demonstration amid rising anger about the changes to the pensions system and the impact of the government's cuts on older people. Neil Duncan-Jordan from the National Pensioners Convention said he had not seen members so energised and motivated for more than a decade.
Members of the football supporters' union the Spirit of Shankly are travelling by coach from Liverpool. The group, which was formed three years ago and campaigns on football and wider social issues, has 11,000 members. Roy Bentham, 43, said: "There was a vote and our membership decided we should support the TUC and the march, that we should do our bit to oppose what is going on, so we are setting off at 4.30am and hope to be in London by about 10am."
Campaigners against domestic violence
Domestic abuse services are being hit hard by the cuts, and many campaign groups will be on Saturday's march. Members of the White Ribbon campaign from Portsmouth will be travelling to London to highlight the impact of cuts on vulnerable women and children. Kirsty Mellor, 32, said: "One in four women are affected by domestic abuse in the UK and we find it strange this government don't see these are essential services."
The British Medical Association is not sending a formal delegation on the march, but doctors from across the country will be joining the demonstration. Wendy Savage, from Keep Our NHS Public, said groups from London, Oxford and Manchester would be demonstrating alongside members of the NHS Consultants' Association.
As well as the 4,500 police officers on duty Peter Smyth, chair of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said off-duty officers would join the demonstration to protest at cuts to the police service itself. "I am aware that there will be a number of police officers joining the march, so we have a bit of a common cause with the TUC on this one," Smyth said.
Aside from those covering the demonstration, journalists from newspapers, television and online will march under the National Union of Journalists banner as part of the Federation of Entertainment Unions.
Coalition of Resistance
This national anti-cuts alliance, which draws support from leftwing groups and elements of the union and labour movements as well as environmental groups and student activists, is expected to mobilise thousands. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union and supporter of this "other" coalition, said: "The labour movement is at a crossroads. Either we stand at the heart of a broad, powerful and militant movement against the government's economic agenda or we risk decline and marginalisation."
This online group claims it will stage a number of "people's assemblies" along the route of the march. Under the banner "Battle of Britain" it is calling for a 24-hour occupation of an area of Hyde Park and "after parties" at London landmarks including Piccadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace.
'Tahrir to Trafalgar'
A group of student groups, two Labour MPs and range of other activists have called for a 24-hour occupation of Trafalgar Square – drawing inspiration from revolts in the Middle East – following the main march. In a joint statement they said: "We want to turn Trafalgar Square into a place of people's power where we assert our alternative to cuts and austerity and make it a day that this government won't forget."
Anarchists and libertarians
Several anarchist groups are planning to take part in the demonstrations. One, calling itself "the radical workers' bloc", is staging a feeder march from Kennington Park in south London. The group is "calling on anarchists, libertarian communists and militant workers … to provide a visible presence and a revolutionary alternative to the sellouts in the TUC bureaucracy".
And for those who can't make the demonstration, there is also the "first armchair army virtual march". The Facebook group, which has more than 1,600 members, states: "This group is for people who are not able to attend the national march in protest at the horrific cuts being made by this government. YOU can add real and massive support to the march by BOMBARDING news/media with your letters and messages of support."
Saturday, 26 March 2011
Anti-cuts march: the protesters | World news | The Guardian