demo

‘Disabled People Against Cuts’ and ‘Cornwall Save our NHS’ to protest in Truro this week

After the effective (and deserved) collapse of the Lib Dems in the local election on the 5th, there’s more good news. Cornwall is hosting two protests over the next week against disability benefit cuts and the coalition’s attacks on the NHS.

Below are the events, which Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance asked me to pass on. Please spread the word about these events – Wednesday’s protest is part of the anti-ATOS week of action, and the vigil/march/picket/street theatre in Truro this Saturday is the first major event from Save Our NHS Cornwall. Two pretty unmissable events in the Cornwall activist timetable!

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Week of Action Against ATOS – Truro Protest, Wednesday 11th

Come and take part in Cornwall Disabled People Against the Cuts’ first event as part of the Week of Action against the ‘poverty pimps’ ‘ATOS’. We are meeting outside Wetherspoons in Lemon Quay, Truro, on Wednesday May 11th, at 10.30am. The protest will then proceed to ATOS in Pydar Street,  with placards and leaflets for a demonstration outside their HQ.

If you cannot do that journey, be in the car park near Pydar House at 11.00am. Then we will go to ATOS in Pydar House for our protest. If we have the energy, we will return to Lemon Quay for more leafleting and petitioning.

Please call Chris Gibson on 01872 560483 for more details, or email Mike Smart at mike.smart13@yahoo.com

What does DPAC stand for?

  • full human rights and dignity for disabled people
  • opposition to government austerity measures which target the poor while leaving the wealthy unscathed
  • we refuse to stay silent against wealthy politicians delivering injustice on ordinary people
  • we refuse to accept they can destroy lives because we are sick or disabled
  • we will not be scapegoats for the financial mistakes of governments

Atos Origin have just begun a £300 million contract by the Government to carry out ‘work capability assessments’ on all of those claiming Incapacity Benefit.

It is claimed assessments are to test what people can do rather than what they can’t. The real purpose is to strip benefits from as many people as possible.

This testing system has already led to people with terminal illnesses and severe medical conditions being declared fit for work and having benefits cut. GP’s are ignored in favour of decisions made by Atos Origin’s computer.

To date around 40% of appeals against Atos Origin’s decisions have been successful.’

Facebook event page here.

Save our NHS Cornwall – Picket, March, Vigil and Street Theatre on May 14th

Our NHS is under threat. Health workers at Treliske face the slashing of their pensions, hundreds of job losses and the Royal Cornwall Health Trust is being forced to ‘save’ £15 million this year. Alongside these local cuts, Lansley’s health reforms will take power from democratic, public hands into those of private consortia.

Because of this people in Cornwall are fighting back. Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance and Save our NHS Cornwall are organising a joint picket of support for staff at Treliske on Saturday May 14th at 12: 30pm, followed by a march into Lemon Quay. This will be followed by a Vigil at 2.00pm – with live street theatre!

Please do all you can to spread the word, and defend our NHS and its workers, and come to these fantastic events on the 14th May.

Facebook event here.

Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance
http://cornwallanticutsalliance.wordpress.com/
On Twitter: @Kernowanticuts

Cornwall-Wide Demonstration in May Against the Cuts

I haven’t been posting a whole lot recently because I’ve been a bit out of the political loop, busy with college work among other things. So, now that my apology is over, I’ll give you a bit of context about what’s happening.

Anti-Cuts Alliance Cornwall (yep, looking into name rebranding) is planning a demonstration against the cuts in Truro, scheduled for the end of May. It’s not official yet, but I’ll keep you informed. Tomorrow’s general meeting will hopefully lay out the basic details.

During the wave of student protests last year, some of you will know myself and others organised demonstrations in Truro against tuition fees. Two of them organised within a couple of weeks and spread through posters and Facebook got over 100 out in protest. We were on relatively good terms with local police and nothing was mentioned about a levy on public protest. So long as it wasn’t obstructive or violent; it was fine.

Cornwall Anti-Cuts has been talking with the local council and after rumours of a £3,000 fee for utilising Victoria Gardens, apparently the committee have now approved  the request for the demonstration. Now’s the time to start raising funds and support for the protest. After the massive March 26th ‘March for the Alternative’ in London, now’s the time to bring the action home.

Truro hasn’t seen a large protest for a long time, and this one hopes to be supported by trade union branches (Anti-Cuts Alliance Cornwall is backed by Cornwall NUT and CWU) as well as local community groups. There’s a lot of preparation to be done.

If you’re part of a Cornwall based charity, a member of a trade union, a student, a worker, unemployed – if you’re anyone getting hit by the cuts, email canticall@gmx.co.uk and get involved. There’s going to be a Public Meeting – ‘How The Cuts will Hurt You and How to Fight Them!’ organised by Cornwall Anti-Cuts on the 28th April! It will take place at the Hall for Cornwall (Assembly Rooms), on Thursday 28th April at 7.00pm. Everyone’s welcome.

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While we’re talking about demonstrations – a few months ago, just before the 3rd (?) Day of Action against fees and cuts, myself and another fellow student were taken out of class and essentially interrogated by senior admin and two members of police about what we were planning – which was nothing at all, incidentally. Scandal! Well, not quite, but certainly fairly intimidatory and not appropriate for a place of learning (especially while we had studying to do). Legally, the police don’t even need to be informed about demonstrations. But with the police in Devon and Cornwall losing 700 staff – everyone’s being hit, and few are unsympathetic to the anti-cuts movement when they look at the facts.

From Inside the Trafalgar Square Kettle – My View on the Night of #March26

There have already been a large number of reports on the Trafalgar Square incident after the half a million strong anti-cuts demonstration on March 26. But after a number of posts (such as the one by Penny Red) about the night which do not give the full picture, I want to say what I saw.

The day itself was of course incredible. Completely peaceful, the march continued for hours before winding up some time in the early afternoon. We had heard about the Occupy for the Alternative event that UK Uncut was planning and so headed down for that at around 2pm. When we got there, many shops were already shut by the police, with dozens standing outside Vodafone, Topshop, BHS etc. I saw very little smashed glass and very little damage – a bit of paint on some buildings was all that marred most of their exteriors. The smaller Boots on Oxford Street had been shut down and turned into a singing hospital. I joined in and the atmosphere was positive. Up the road, a guitarist was playing anti-cuts tunes with a huge crowd in a circle around him. Even the police were laughing.

Despite rumours of violent anarchism, some of which I’m sure were true, we only saw people standing around enjoying the Uk Uncut actions. Many walking past applauded, while international media spoke to people dressed up as doctors staging direct action.

Hyde Park at Night

As darkness fell we walked to Hyde Park, where a Stay for One Day event was taking place. Around 200 people were there drinking, playing drums and sitting around fires. We got chatting to a few people there who wanted to see what Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly were like as we heard helicopters overhead.  The crowd at Hyde Park were largely of the ‘Lawful Rebellion’ sort, mostly hippies and generally peaceful anarchists (by that I mean those who don’t believe in the legitimacy of the state, not people randomly smashing things). This group had planned to camp there overnight, and although myself and my girlfriend had sleeping bags we decided to check out Trafalgar after hearing 2000 were there partying.

Trafalgar Square – From Rave to Rampage

So we arrived at Trafalgar Square at around 8 or 9pm – and at that point the mood was incredibly. Very few police, very little disorder, several fires and a samba band filled the square alongside the 2000 others there. A bit of drunkenness but no aggression at this point. Then not long after 9 we heard a clinking sound around the clock. The sound of metal against metal. It had no chance of destroying the clock itself.

But then the police came in and formed a line around the clock. To the demonstrators delight, these were chased off, but came back stronger. Sticks started to be thrown (pulled from the bonfires, frighteningly), and I heard breaking glass. Not long after we saw a man stumbling around covering his bleeding head. Riot police then reinforced the officers around the Olympic Clock. This battle lasted for quite a while, and we watched with bemusement and not a little fear, as broken bottles landed beside us.

Just before 10pm (I think), hundreds started running off the square. We lost the person we had met that night and didn’t realise a kettle was being formed. It was too late at this point. Police had blocked all the exit point, and they started coming towards the main column. Before long they had surrounded the metal ‘fence’ around the monument and forced us inside. I saw people lash out in frustration and in return being rammed in with shields. One women repeatedly ran into the police to be knocked over again. Another man was shouting at them. All understandable. There were over a hundred on the actual column, chanting and occasionally throwing something. Unfortunately, because we were kettled, these objects far too often nearly hit the peaceful demonstrators not up there.

I asked an officer where the necessary toilets were in the kettle – they had to provide water, toilets and medical help. None of these things were provided. We were freezing cold, needed sleep and had been standing all day. I was told as the kettle formed that it was only ‘temporary’ and we would be allowed out shortly. This was not the case. Instead the sent in reinforcements. It was intimidating. And most in there were obviously innocent. So it was fundamentally frustrating. No legal support. And we were of course demonised in the press. Meanwhile the rabble on the monument continued chanting, shouting and doing what they could to annoy the police.

This continued for over 2 hours. Just before 12 a sympathetic officer told us to go to the right where people would be let out, until at 12:05 we were released. Around a hundred police surrounded the kettle, forming a rectangular border on the exit. We were released 3 at a time, our photos were all taken and we exited dazed, knackered, irritated and angry with both sides, unlike at the December 9th demonstration where the police were in fact largely to blame. Kettling is disgusting. But it was not unprovoked.

I later met the young man who had started the attempted demolition of the Olympic Clock, and he said he felt ‘responsible’ for the following chaos. Why he was telling us this I don’t know. But contrary to what some have been saying, I was told by him that he was arrested and then ‘de-arrested’ after the incident, not before. It is important not to romanticise about the night. It was fairly brutal, and there was a lot of justified anger out there. The people I saw who were wearing black with their faces covered however, were largely just there for a riot. The only thing that isn’t being said is that these characters were in a minority in Trafalgar Square, at least at the start when it was merely a large street party.

For socialists, it is the mass movement that is key. And that’s what the 500,000 strong march was all about. Direct action, too, has a role to play, and the peaceful but radical nature of UK Uncut is a vital tool against tax-dodging and the cuts. But there must be balance, and the Trafalgar Square occupation should not have ended how it did. To blame it all on one group would be disingenuous.

Turnout will be much reduced at further demos if people think it is going to end in havoc. Saturday was my second time in London for a demo, and, excuse the pun, travelling 300 miles to be kettled isn’t many people’s cup of tea.

The Myth of Cornish Inaction – Working towards a mass ‘March for the Alternative’ in Cornwall

Odd fact: the number of protests against the cuts in Cornwall has declined since the formation of the Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance. At first glance, it could be considered ironic, if not ludicrous. But there are several valid reasons why this is, and actually should be, the case. And what one solution is to this temporary situation.

Firstly, the student movement died down at the end of last year (as reflected by the EMA demo in January). Exams, cold weather and the passing of the tuition fees and Education Maintenance Allowance votes all took their toll. Secondly, Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliances suffered some initial setbacks. No structure and very little concrete action at first was inevitable, and the past few weeks have concerned building a strong basis on which to build on – which has been successful. Every weekend for the past month or so activists have been in towns around the county getting the message out about the NHS ‘reforms’, the March 26 demonstration and the group itself. And thirdly, it is much more effective to begin by building a network of activists than randomly calling a demo at a few days notice. But, with the group now established, and anti-cuts sentiment growing among the public both in the region and nationally – the time has come to build for a county-wide demonstration against the cuts.

The demonstration on the 26th provides ample opportunity to build for this. With at least 300 travelling up from Cornwall – and probably more – the journeys up to London will give room for plenty of discussion about a future march – in early May perhaps – in Cornwall. Trade unions will, and will have to be, at the heart of promoting such a demonstration. There are sure to be leaflets circulating on coaches on the day about a Cornwall Stop the Cuts protest.

Other areas have already had massive protests. In the South West, Bristol recently saw around 2000 take to the streets against the cuts. Manchester at the beginning of March – around 1000 protest. Leeds, Glasgow and nearly every other part of the country has seen large mobilisations against austerity. Cornwall, a hotspot of Lib Dem support, could easily see many former Lib Dems march against betrayal and economic savagery.

We need a general March for the Alternative in Cornwall. Cornwall Council are pushing through some of the most unfair cuts in England – a 40% cut to the Supporting People scheme, slashing of adult care funding, millions of pounds in library cuts and nearly a thousand council job losses. A hundreds-strong demonstration in Cornwall would localise, and make visible, the level of opposition to the slash and burn mentality of the coalition and ‘our’ local authorities. But it would also energise people here and let them know, in the most vocal way possible, that there is a movement growing around them.

The first step is agreeing the details. When, where and how, most obviously. This will be talked about in Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance next Wednesday (the 23rd), and is apparently already being discussed by the fledgling Truro Socialist Workers Party branch. After that, a public meeting about the cuts, with ordinary workers, as well as – potentially – regional or even national speakers.

It’s not too wise to focus on whether these cuts can be completely stopped in Cornwall. True, if a cuts budget was defeated, it would be a huge blow to the coalition. But that does not necessarily have to be all that a broad Cornwall-wide anti-cuts demo would be about. Educate, agitate, organise as the old saying goes. An all-inclusive March for the Alternative after the momentous mobilisation of the 26th is a must, and would meet all three of those demands.

Andrew George MP and the ‘Rage Against the Lib Dems’ Demo

 

Around 5,000 gathered on Saturday to oppose the Liberal Democrat leadership in Sheffield at their conference. A video of the march is below – the mood seemed to be overwhelmingly for Nick Clegg to go.

Probably the same could be said for those inside the conference hall as the membership rejected Tory NHS ‘reforms’ – handing budgets over to private consortia by proxy and scrapping PCT’s – democratic and localised health trusts. Andew George (MP for St. Ives) made some refreshing comments, but even moreso in an overlooked Independent article just a few days ago where he said the NHS changes will leave the

‘carnage of a dismembered and disintegrated health service [providing] rich pickings for private companies and the unscrupulous among private GP contractors. The fractured NHS will be monumentally difficult to hold together’

Wise words Andrew. Now you have to persuade your other Lib Dem comrades in Cornwall the same thing. Stephen Gilbert, who recently jumped on the ‘anti-cuts’ bandwagon, will surely oppose the moves? Wishful thinking, perhaps.

Details for Transport from Cornwall to London’s March 26th Anti-Cuts Demo!

Transport from Cornwall to the first national anti-cuts march, the TUC-organised ‘March for the Alternative’ on the 26th March is now available for anyone to book. Most coach places are free or around £10. The major unions in Cornwall are sending up coaches, with NUT funding much of the transport at a subsidised rate.

Details for local transport are below:

To book your coach seat from Cornwall:

  • Alternatively, book a seat with Unison (priority to Unison members and their families): darc@unison.co.uk
  • Or call Unison to reserve a place: 01929 555900 (same as above)
  • Unite are also offering places from Cornwall: call 01202 294 333 or email bob.lanning@unitetheunion.org

To book your coach seat from Plymouth/ rest of Devon:

 

Coaches will be picking up people from stops around Cornwall and Devon.

The demonstration is set to be huge, with hundreds of coaches and trains booked nationwide already. Unison priorise places for members but still have places for those who aren’t in Unison. The role of all unions currently is to organise for the march so the Unite and PCS unions (along with the NUT) are all bringing down coaches from Cornwall. Most of the coaches are leaving early on the Saturday and coming back in the evening (NUT coaches will be leaving at 7pm), but there is the option to stay overnight with Unison and come back early in the morning from London.

More information on South West transport to the demo on the False Economy website.

MP hypocrisy as homeless support scheme slashed by Cornwall Council

Cornwall Council voted today to put over 1500 already vulnerable people at risk of losing their housing and being thrown out  on to the streets – ignoring the public outrage expressed in Sunday’s large ‘camp out’ demonstration.

The council chose to slash the Supporting People programme while having £127m in reserves – a gigantic proportion of which could be used to save such funding. The very same council are spending £2,000 a day on Sir Banham, a stand-in chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership.

The Supporting People programme, a key defence against homelessness in the County, provides funding for sheltered housing and other specialised supported housing projects across the country. The government itself has attacked making large cuts to the scheme, and Cornwall’s goes far beyond others; this is no small cut. The Council voted by 65-40 for a 40% reduction in funding for the programme. While nationally the cuts are savage in scale, the council have proved they wish to exceed that pace by ‘front-loading’ – ie. making as early as possible – already front-loaded cuts – to help for those at risk of homelessness.

Protest Camp-Out

The decision was made despite huge public opposition to the cut. Around 80 people camped outside County Hall on Sunday night in opposition to the plans, declaring those affected ‘Homeless, not Worthless’.

Stephen Gilbert MP - demanding MPs support cuts while pretending to oppose cuts?

Disturbingly, Stephen Gilbert MP – a Liberal Democrat and junior whip in the coalition – came to ‘lend his support’, despite himself forcing MPs nationally to support the largest spending cuts since the 1930s. If he was not implementing economic brutality in Westminster the Council would not be making these cuts whatsoever. The sheer insanity of his participation in the protest caused considerable disgust in some quarters.

I was at the demonstration, along with several other students, and it was a true coalition of concerned citizens – Greens, voluntary workers, Labour members, vulnerable people themselves, residents, locals and campaigners. Many stayed in just a sleeping bag on cardboard on the floor – right next to the entrance that councillors pass through to make these detrimental choices. The temperature apparently dropped to -1 in the morning, and few got much sleep – myself included. But this is an everyday reality for many – and the problem is now set to skyrocket. The press were a constant presence and asked many how they felt about the cuts: the responses were unequivocal. Cornwall UNISON backed the protest and regional organiser Stuart Roden came along, saying support ‘services will be severely cut and many will end, totally divesting essential support to the most vulnerable in society.”

Council Opposition

As well the large grassroots opposition, the move to cut SP by 40% is opposed by all Mebyon Kernow and Liberal Democrat councillors, as well as Jude Robinson, the first Labour councillor in the Unitary authority. The couple of Independent rebel votes were not enough to stop the axe-budget passing due to the Tory/Independent council coalition apparently warning councillors they ‘must support our budget’. Several councillors, including Jude Robinson, Alex Folkes, and many town councillors, came (and even camped out) to support the night-long occupation. Former Labour MP Candy Atherton also came to express her solidarity.

Homeless shelters such as Cosgarne could be forced to intensely scale back their support, or even close, because of these cuts, pushing hundreds more on to the streets of Cornwall. Though not officially a huge problem in Cornwall, the attack on funding will exacerbate the number of people without a place to stay – leading to increased burdens on the NHS (homeless people suffer considerably more health problems – both mental and physical) and the police service as people turn to crime to afford necessities.

The Tory/Independent coalition of Cornwall Council – which could just as easily be a 100% Conservative administration – have sold out the electors they claim to represent. But despite the vote passing, the anger will not fade away – indeed, the anger has only just begun.

Links

http://lansonboy.blogspot.com/2011/02/that-sinking-feeling-cornwall-to-cut.html

http://www.unisonsouthwest.org.uk/content/news/unison-backs-sleep-out-protest-in-cornwall.ashx

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-12445779