As many as 250,000 people have joined the march against austerity taking place in London this afternoon, with a smaller demonstration also happening in Glasgow, sources claim. Organized by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, the march spanned much of the capital’s financial district and ended outside the House of Parliament in Westminster where various speakers addressed the nation’s growing financial concerns.
Joined by celebrities such as singer Charlotte Church and comedian Russel Brand, the diverse crowd amongst the ‘End Austerity Now’ demonstration marched for a multitude of reasons related to austerity. Many protesters attended to raise awareness for tuition fees, fracking, various trade unions, and even the Trident nuclear program.
“We’re showing solidarity with all the groups, political organisations or those with no political affiliation to say loud and clear, enough is enough,” said Green Party leader Sharar Ali. “This government has been implementing programs and policies which have made the poor poorest whilst making the rich richest.”
Protesters and organizers alike sought to bring attention to the impact of previous cutbacks on public services, welfare, education, and the state-run National Health Service (NHS), as well as the potential effects of new austerity measures that are said to be introduced by George Osborne in the new budget coming July 8. Fortunately the demonstration was overtly positive save for a few flares being set off, with the police not having to report any violence throughout the day. Many are astounded by how amazingly everyone has come together in order to speak about these issues.
“It will be the start of a campaign of protest, strikes, direct action and civil disobedience up and down the country,” said Sam Fairbairn, an organizer of the People’s Assembly. “We will not rest until austerity is history, our services are back in public hands and the needs of the majority are put first.”
“We have seen a huge impact on our work at primary school,” said 45 year old Sian Bloor, a teacher from Trafford. “You can see how children are being affected by the cuts, I regularly bring clothes and shoes for children and biscuits for their breakfast just so they get something to eat.”
Another teacher seen at the protest opened up about her experiences with the budget cuts, saying it hasn’t always been like this. “We’re sending kids home with leftover school dinners because they’re not getting fed at home. If I’ve got some spare kid’s clothes, I’ll bring them in for them. Lots of our teachers bring in breakfast for their pupils.” the 40 year old educator revealed. “Only in the last four years have I noticed it. There’s just less and less support for low income families. Once they would have intervened to help them but not now. People have finally had enough. I’m hopeful that this is the start of something. This is definitely the biggest march I’ve been on.”
The rally ended with many different speakers sharing their thoughts on the matter at Parliament Square and generally slamming the government and austerity.
“I’m inspired to see such incredible numbers in this square after the results of the election. My personal feelings about this movement are very, very deep. Without a welfare state my mum would have died of cancer several times. I am personally a product of the welfare state because I signed on for eight years while I learned to be a comedian.” said Russel Brand, sharing the stage that Unite union boss Len McCluskey and activist Owen Jones (amongst many others) had used earlier.
With the May 7th election victory that gave David Cameron’s centre-right Conservative Party a majority in parliament – for the first time in almost 20 years – the public are now worried about future cuts to public spending as the party desperately tries to cover a budget deficit of nearly £90 billion (or $184 billion). The Conservatives already implemented wide cutbacks to public services and welfare spending during the previous coalition administration, and the coalition’s current austerity policies include nearly £20 billion of cuts to welfare, with a goal of reducing that by another £12 billion within the next five years.
During the demonstration, Cameron took to his Facebook to say how he doesn’t want to “waste a second in delivering our manifesto commitments.” going on to say “We will keep working through our plan to create more security and opportunity in our country – and, with your help, we can secure a brighter future for everyone in Britain.”