Notes ahead of the TUC march, Saturday October 20th
October 18, 2012 1 Comment
Sadly I can’t be in London on Saturday to take part in the TUC march. Here are some basic points of practical advice for the day and a few brief thoughts about what will immediately follow.
Firstly, I’m not the only one who can’t be there: whether because of disability, cost, work commitments, caring commitments, or personal reasons to avoid such an event, many people who would like to be there won’t be. These are exactly the issues that should be at the heart of our fight, and those who are absent should be remembered as part of that fight as much as those who are present.
The day might turn out like last year’s TUC march on March 26th, which was long and hectic, full of the unexpected, or it might be like last year’s NCAFC march on November 9th, which was a slow and orderly walk through central London with an overbearing police escort. Be prepared for either; take drink, take food, take sensible footwear, etc. If you can switch to a cheap handset, that can be damaged, lost or confiscated without causing too much distress, do so. If you can switch to a clean SIM that doesn’t have all your information on it, so much the better.
Take the phone number of GBC Legal Support: 07946 541 511. Write this on your skin so that it can’t be lost or taken away from you. This is important not only if you yourself have legal difficulties but also if you witness anyone else being stopped, harassed, searched, beaten, arrested etc (if you do witness this sort of thing, try to film or photograph it and get hold of shoulder numbers of the officers involved). Having the number on your arm does not mean that you are looking for trouble; it’s just a sensible and necessary precaution. The mass arrest at Fortnum and Mason’s last year demonstrates how even the most benign of protesters can find themselves arrested, and the defendants campaign that was organised to look after them shows how important legal support groups like GBC are. It is also wise to have the number of a solicitor and possibly an emergency contact.
Liberty will be providing legal observers on the day. It is important to know that Liberty’s legal observers will pass on information about protesters to the police. It is therefore wise to keep some distance from them. Similarly, bear in mind that all coppers on the day will be gathering information. This is one of the prime agendas of the friendly Liaison Officers who try to strike up conversations. Act as you feel best, but I advise that chatting to cops, especially on protest days like this, is not wise.
It is advisable to wear a mask, or at least be prepared to cover your face. The police’s Forward Intelligence Team will be out recording all day and will be trying to gather as much information as they can about people who attend protests. This is footage and information that they will keep and will have control over, and they will use it for their purposes. Under section 60AA of the Public Order Act an officer can ask you to remove a facial covering, but until that point it is perfectly legal. Additionally, obscuring the FIT’s view of other protesters with banners and placards is a noble and righteous thing to do
GBC have more information about protests, arrests and legal support on their website, and will be distributing ‘bust cards’ with quick summaries of your rights on the day.
I would like as many people as possible to go to the Boycott Workfare action, which will be meeting at 2:30 at Oxford Circus. Workfare is one of the biggest threats to employment rights and the well-being of working class people in this country and it is not being adequately addressed by either the TUC or Labour Party. The only way to beat it is through grassroots mobilisation, so make this big. Your alternative is walking to Hyde Park and listening to some speeches.
This might be an important issue: Despite all being out on the same march, people will come with strikingly different agendas and ideologies. In the face of the law, the media and the reactionary backlash that attends any major protest, we need to rekindle the sense of sincere solidarity that sustained us through the intense period of protests in the Winter of 2010/2011. People are marching because they’re angry, because the lives that they were promised haven’t materialised, because they’re finding it harder and harder to cope. That anger will be visible in many different forms. Following the protest, the police, the government, the TUC and the media will all construct their own version of events; their interests are not the same as ours, their agenda is not our agenda. Life is getting increasingly difficult, the actions of the government and the capitalist class are having increasingly devastating effects on us and, though we all know marching won’t change things, coming together and sticking together is the only real hope we have. Each day it becomes truer and truer that all we have left is each other. I have no idea how the day will turn out, but whatever happens, keep each other safe.