1) It will be a personal perspective from someone who was there.
2) It will not contain any police press releases, parroted verbatim.
3) It will actually be reliable.
My day started with a wake-up call, early for a Saturday morning, at 9 am sharp. Cups of tea were made. Music was played. Breakfast was eaten. Appearances agonised over. I reassured my girlfriend that she looked great; great enough to attend a revolution. No, really, she is hot. Anyway, we took the train and disembarked at Waterloo.
We met up with a few hundred other UK Uncut supporters at the National Theatre, South Bank, at 1130am, before eventually setting off over Waterloo bridge and up to the Strand. The atmosphere was that of a carnival, with people in fancy dress, carrying flags, playing music, handing out leaflets and shouting slogans. At the Strand, there was some confusion about which way we were supposed to go. Marches can be quite choatic, with everyone following everyone else and only a few people knowing the correct route. Some of us headed up to a pre-arranged rendezvous point in Soho Square, after a much-needed pint in a local pub, whilst the main march continued through Trafalgar Square and on towards Hyde Park, where the main TUC rally passed off entirely peacefully.
|Pre-kettled Clown. Photo by Noa Bodner|
|Unison Banner. Marching families. Photo by Noa Bodner|
|UK Uncut comedy gig and rally in Soho Square|
|Comedian Josie Long at UK Uncut comedy gig in Soho Square. Photo Noa Bodner.|
|Comedian and disabled campaigner Lisa Egan, Soho Square. Photo Noa Bodner.|
|Comedian (or dangerous subversive?), Mark Thomas at UK Uncut gig, Soho Square, clearly surrounded by violent anarchists. Photo Noa Bodner.|
|Independent columnist, Johann Hari (in blue shirt, left) chats to comedian Chris Coltrane during Josie Long's set.|
|A surprise appearance from the royal couple at UK Uncut's Soho Sq comedy gig. Photo Noa Bodner.|
|Big Brother's floating eye-in-the-sky above Soho Square. Hope they enjoyed the gig. Photo Noa Bodner.|
|A lone protester knocked over by riot police in Piccadilly.|
|A mixed group of protetsers in Piccadilly, mostly peaceful, although clashes are taking place at the back right of the shot between police and a very small group of anarchists attacking a LLoyds bank.|
|Damage to Banco Santander in Piccadilly, by a small group of anarchists.|
(Update 4/4/11: This article was written in the immediate aftermath of the day, when my feelings were running high for many reasons. I've decided to leave it unedited, but would add that my initial irritation has subsided over the following week. I neither condemn nor approve of those who took part in damage to property on that day for political purposes, but I do feel it was unnecessary and counter-productive. Their actions have been blown out of all proportion and decontextualised by the media, and that is the point. Then again, I always strongly oppose the use of physical aggression against people - including the police. I note that most - though not all - of the physical aggression appears to have been initiated by police in riot gear).
On the other hand, UK Uncut has shown that there is a place for peaceful direct action. It works, it gets the right kind of attention and it magnifies the message, rather than burying it. This still carries the risk of arrest, of course. Indeed, many of my friends were arrested today after occupying Fortnum & Mason's in Piccadilly. I'm guessing this would be for the crime of 'aggravated trespass', which was invented by the last Conservative government mainly for use against ravers and anti-roads protesters in the 90s.
Moses only needed ten commandments. John Major added an 11th in 1994: 'Thou shalt not commit aggravated trespass'. Now, we all know not to covet each other's oxes, but I doubt many of us even know what 'aggravated trespass' means. It's amazing how many new crimes have been put on the statute books since then. The proliferation of such crimes makes a very telling counterpoint to the deregulation of the financial sector, the explosion of offshore finance and the opening of ever larger loopholes for tax avoidance. As ever, greater freedom for financial capital is accompanied by less freedom for people.
When histories are written, the protesters who were arrested for occupying Fortnum & Mason will be remembered as heroes, whilst the vandals will be forgotten. Tonight though, we have to contend with a lying, duplicitous media.