Brighton and Hove Against Austerity

Brighton, forever the hotbed of activity, has a way of sweeping you up in some sort of action. And this is precisely what happened to me today.

Returning from a stroll into town where I was picking up some more pads of paper, I was greeted by a throng of people marching, whistling and calling. Of course, today was strike day, and Brighton and Hove were out in force.

I stopped and watched as the procession walked past, smiling and nodding approvingly, and was all set to head home, when the feeling struck me to just join in. So I did.

I live tweeted a bit as I was going and took a few photos but unfortunately my phone battery isn’t up to much these days, and so I had to limit my media activity.

Strikes, marches and pickets, anywhere but in London, tend to be a low key affair. There is normally a small group of people, the hardcore union members and activists, who take part in the days events, but the large majority of people use their extra day off to go shopping, or to have a lie in.

This, though, was most definitely not the case in Brighton and Hove today. Walking from the clock tower towards Grand Parade there were easily 500+ people from all manner of unions. GMB, FBU, UNISON, NUJ and NUT were all present. It was a really impressive turnout and their numbers were further bolstered when they reached Grand Parade, as a second march merged with the one I was following.

Estimates that I have seen since, put the number of people at around 2000. With bugles blaring, whistles being blown, and the GMB van leading the way the huge number of protesters made their way towards the level. The Ska music from the van providing a welcome soundtrack for the procession.

I was really impressed with the turnout, and it gave me quite a deep feeling of joy and happiness.  The passion of these people, the direct action they were taking, and the support and solidarity they were showing one another gave a feeling of hope. Hope that people can make a difference, and it is not futile supporting and fighting for what you believe in.

Whether these strikes, protests and marches make a difference of not is yet to be seen. Perhaps they wont, but for today at least the people in attendance could carry home the knowledge that they have not simply stood by and watched as something they love is dismantled and stolen from them.

Unsurprisingly Caroline Lucas was in attendance today. The more I read about her, the more I hear and the more I see of her in public, the more impressed I am with her moral character and her commitment. This is an MP that got arrested after joining an anti-fracking demonstration. How many other MP’s would do such a thing?

Caroline Lucas Tweet
So the procession descended on the level for the end of march speeches. A banner hung at the front read: “An injury to one is an injury to all”, and it is this message that everyone should take on board. The easiest and most effective method of defeating an enemy is divide and conquer. When the people are fighting against themselves, the government can get away with it. It is only when the people unite in solidarity the government are held accountable.

As a student I opposed the Con-Dem government, and students were not the only enemies the government made. NHS workers, public sector workers, emergency services, education personnel, Scottish independence activists, disabled members of the population, people affected by the abhorrent bedroom tax, benefits claimant, immigrants… the list goes on. It is crucial that all these groups of people support one another because if they do not, each will fall, one by one, until none are standing.

Before the speeches got under way at the Level, we were greeted to the political-infused folk of Rob Johnson. Armed with only an electric guitar and a sharp wit, he forced me to break into a smile more than once. Incompetent Michael Gove was singled out a number of times, bringing cheers from the gathered crowd.

Presidents and Heads of the Unions gave their speeches, with the recurring theme being “enough is enough”. Caroline Lucas said a few words as well, before a Labour candidate took to the stage. As the Labour candidate spoke a sign held aloft by a middle aged man emerged from the crowd and made its way to the front. The sign read “blue labour, no thanks”.

I had to leave the gathering before the official end as I had work to do myself but I am very glad that I played a part in what I did. I fully support the strike action held today, and will continue to support the anti-austerity movement as a whole.

To put yourself in the place of the strikers you need only to imagine their predicament. Since 2010 they have faced an 18% pay cut in real terms. During this time rent, gas and electricity bills, food, and petrol prices have all increased. All whilst the the most wealthy people in the nation have earned record profits, MP’s are set to have a pay rise, bankers are still awarding themselves bonuses, and the wealthy have seen their income tax fall by 5%.

One strike is not going to be enough to prevent the actions of this short-sighted, millionaire government, but hopefully it can lead on to something bigger.

A full report of the days events can be found here, on The Argus.

 

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