Thousands of protestors took to the streets of London as part of a number of demonstrations taking place across the globe on the 5th of November. On the night, Pandeia caught up with those involved from the grassroots to the organisers of the action where a common theme of the need for change became apparent.
Two protests coincided last night to bring thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of central London in a stand against austerity.
An official protest on Westminster Bridge by the People’s Assembly group attracted dozens of supporters who lit a bonfire symbolising their opposition to the energy companies. Several well-known speakers also addressed the crowd including MP Jeremy Corbyn and political commentator Owen Jones, who likened zero-hour contracts to the Victorian age in his speech.
Speaking to Pandeia after he had taken the megaphone, Owen Jones said of the action: “it’s becoming a real grass-roots movement, ever since the launch of the People’s Assembly on the 22nd of June this year, we’ve been trying to organise more and more of these types of things.” The political commentator and founding member of the People’s Assembly went on to call for more engagement in civil disobedience to protest against austerity cuts.
Jones also encouraged greater cooperation between student movements across Europe. “It has to be a European movement, because this is a European offensive, what’s going on in Greece and Spain is worse than here, what we need to do is link all those movements up. After all, to coin a phrase, we’re all in this together.”
In a separate development, the ‘Million Mask March’, an unofficial protest, also gathered near Westminster. The march was organised in association with the online hacktivist collective known as Anonymous and was heavily policed as it moved from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. Some protesters let off fireworks while several onlookers criticised the demonstration for blocking a public highway. One police officer confirmed to Pandeia that the event was unplanned and suggested that many of the protesters had joined the proceedings through ulterior motives.
While it is difficult to get an exact estimate of the number of people involved in the protests in London, the number was certainly in the thousands and was estimated by protestors themselves as well over the 5,000 mark and while the march was peaceful in the main, there were a number of outbreaks of violence when protestors were forced to move by the police. The hostility towards police and the establishment was clear, with many protestors stopping to shout through the fences lined with police surrounding the Houses of Parliament .
Comedian Russell Brand, fresh from his stint as guest editor of the New Statesman, was also in attendance. There have been many calls on him following his ‘Russell-ution’ interview on the BBC to follow his words with action, so his attendance at the protest was obviously refreshing for some.
Speaking to Pandeia one activist, who named himself as Alex, explained that while these demonstrations and protests are worthwhile, the movement as a whole was too fragmented and needed to consolidate its principles across a broader spectrum to lead to change. However, Alex also said that there was still a genuine belief that society is unequal and that these organisations will foster a spirit that will lead to change.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
- Should students do more to cooperate across Europe?
- Should groups organise unofficial protests?
- Do groups need to consolidate more to be able to fight their cause?
- Is civil disobedience the way forward?
Greg Bianchi and Jamie Timson