Wednesday night

Posted: February 28, 2011 by lambethsaveourservices in Demonstrate, Rally & Occupy!, Press release

Lambeth Councillors fled their own chamber on Wednesday night as hundreds of local trade unionists and anti cuts protesters demanded a no-cuts budget.

It all started peacefully enough with a large and lively demonstration outside Lambeth Town Hall. Three to four hundred people took over the pavements outside the town hall and spilled onto the busy inter-junction. There was massive support from passing motorists and bus drivers as horns blared in support of the protest, prompted by placards saying ‘Honk your horns against the cuts’.

The protest was called by Lambeth Save Our Services who had been leafleting and doing stalls in the week leading to the protest. Members from Unison, Unite, GMB, UCU and RMT joined service users in denouncing the planned £37.5 million cuts to Lambeth services – cuts which will effect everything from cutting adventure playgrounds and children crossing patrols to the complete abolition of the park ranger service.

Trouble started when security staff on Council instructions attempted to stop members of the public entering the public gallery, insisting they went into another room away from the chamber to ‘listen from there’. About forty protesters immediately asserted their rights and pushed their way upstairs to an empty gallery. The discomforted councillors were then subject to calls to open the opposite gallery to the public – this was reserved for a few members of the press and some Blairite cronies of Steve Reed the Labour leader.

Cheers were heard for Kingsley-Abrams the only Labour councillor to vote against the cuts – he has been suspended from the Labour group for amongst other things ‘dissociating himself from Labour group policies’!

In the ensuing chaos with chants of ‘this is what democracy looks like’ the Mayor adjourned the council meeting as protesters corralled outside in the hall poured into the council chamber. At that point Steve Reed and his acolytes fled to another room, prepared in advance to carry out the cuts in secret session.

In the meantime the protesters turned the council chamber into a real democratic debating chamber of the Lambeth residents and workers, hearing what the cuts would mean to service users and discussing how to take the struggle against the cuts forward. Much debate centred around how to mobilise for the TUC called demonstration on 26 March and how to prevent it being the be all and end all of the campaign. It has become apparent that the TUC wants this march as a one off and has hired private security to marshal the event and to liaise with the Met Police to ‘deal with trouble makers’.

Lambeth SOS is organising with other south London anti cuts committees a feeder march from Kennington Park. Judging from the militancy shown on Wednesday night the demonstrators will have no truck with anyone trying to control their placards or using private security guards to quash the militancy of the demonstrators. March 26 must be as militant as the Trafalgar Square anti-poll tax protest – a protest and movement that defeated the Poll Tax and did for Margaret Thatcher as well.

We must now do the same for the Con-Dem coalition.

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