Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Delegation from Cornwall join anti-Tory protest

Members of Penwith Anti-Cuts Alliance and Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance joined forces with members of Plymouth Fightback Against the Cuts and travelled up to Manchester in a coach organised by Plymouth Trades Council on 1 and 2 October. There they joined tens of thousands from all over the country to protest at the vicious cuts the Tory-led government are trying to impose on all of us.

On the coach it was clear that those making the trip were keen to both represent their areas and local groups on a national demonstration, but also to enjoy the solidarity of thousands of people marching together for the same cause and to bring that spirit back to Cornwall.

The demonstration on the first day of the Conservatives' conference was big, certainly much bigger than the one at Liberal Democrat Conference two weeks earlier. The police estimated 20,000 people and the BBC claimed 35,000, so it could have easily been more although Right to Work, who initiated the protest, reported around 40,000.
The demonstration assembled at eleven o'clock and there were already large delegations from the Unison and Unite unions present.

The demonstration did not set off for around two hours, a clear indication that it was a large demonstration. At around twelve o'clock we were joined by a feeder march from Salford.

Everyone cheered as the marchers joined the assembled demonstrators.

At about one o'clock the march set off. As it turned the corner it was possible to see another feeder march coming down the street. The demonstrators were from the Education Activist Network and they had orange flares and were chanting 'students and workers unite'.

As the students reached the police lines guarding the outside flank of the main demo, they just carried straight on causing confusion amongst the police. The police simply fell back and allowed the two marches to merge.

Seeing the students was a visible reminder of the radicalism and vibrancy of last year's student protests. Their enthusiasm made a welcome change from the whistling and chant-free atmosphere that had pervaded the previous two hours. Their slogan, combining student radicalism and the power workers have in the workplace offered a way to not just protest against, but to defeat the Tory-led government.

The demonstration contained many trade union banners from all over the North West and beyond. There were also a considerable number of banners from local anti-cuts groups, including from Cornwall.

The demonstration passed the conference centre itself. It was guarded by a phalanx of police, some with machine guns. A nearby building housed police snipers on its rooftop, presumably ready to shoot anyone attempting to storm the conference centre. The demonstration became very angry as it passed, with chants of 'Tories, tories, tories, out out out", "Tory scum" and so on.

The front of the demonstration entered the park where many trade union leaders and people from campaign groups were making speeches around two o'clock. An hour and a half later people were still entering the park.

The best speech was given by Mark Serwotka, the general-secretary of the PCS union. He made the point that we will see the biggest strike in Britain for eighty years on 30 November. He urged everyone to 'unite all our struggles' and to make 30 November the biggest success yet. He quoted his father saying "if you fight you can't guarantee you will always win, but if you don't fight, you lose every time". He went on to say "now's the time to fight, now's the time to defeat the government, well done for today, build the strikes in November".

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