The fight begins in my home borough against the ConDem cuts:
Hundreds of angry protesters besieged Lewisham town hall in Catford last night, as the council forced through cuts. They stood outside and demanded “Let us in!”, as councillors voted behind closed doors. Before long, about a hundred of them got into the building, some letting off smoke bombs. Soon dozens of police vans loaded with riot squad had arrived, and were engaged in combat with some of the protesters.
This was the furious response to Lewisham council’s decision to implement half of the long-term projected cuts of £60m – or “efficiency savings”, as the official euphemism has it – to local services. These cuts affect services for children and young people, libraries and support for schools. The immediate cost in jobs will be 446 redundancies. This is a microcosm of what is happening to local services across the country, with the total cuts package costing half a million jobs. And the protest comes amid a wave of student action, which some of the protesters said had inspired them.
A shocking story, which I heard about as it was happening, through Twitter. I’m stunned to hear of dozens of police vans arriving though, with TSG officers. The similarities though with the student protests are clear:
The scale of the police’s mobilisation suggests they have been preparing for situations just like this, and expect many more. The police are setting themselves up as the hard end of the austerity wedge.
The Met have been expecting action like this and (as per the quote I repeated yesterday by film maker Ken Loach) are behaving as the violent enforcers of the status quo that they are set up to be. And as Richard Seymour points out, what never changes is this:
The vote on cuts went ahead behind closed doors. Labour unanimously endorsed the cuts. The Liberal Democrats abstained – as ever, finding the cowardly way to be unprincipled – and the Green councillor, Darren Johnson, along with the two Tories on the council, opposed. This is redolent of the poll tax, in which a Tory policy was enforced most energetically by Labour councils. The fact that Tory councillors voted against the cuts suggests that the Tories have a dual strategy of devolving the political costs of the cuts to local councils – and it will hurt most in Labour-run councils – while attempting to pick up credit for local opposition. But it won’t wash.
No, and Darren (who’s also my councillor) offered a different path forwards:
A new generational battle against disaster capitalism is escalating and it’ll only grow. Where it ends up is anyone’s guess. The Socialist Worker reports:
many people rushed into the town hall to voice opposition to the cuts. Around 100 protesters managed to get in.
Police then attacked the protesters with horses, dogs, riot shields and truncheons.
One eyewitness, an NUT member, told Socialist Worker, “The police were like animals. The beat people with their truncheons and even attacked a 72 year old pensioner.”
A student at Goldsmiths, told Socialist Worker, “We marched down from the college and people joined us. We recognise the need to demand not just a future for students but for everyone.”
“Then they denied us access to the town hall and police attacked us, grabbing people by the hair and the neck.”
“It shows how little democracy there really is.”