New Internationalist

Just who is being violent?

It’s as though the news stories about Saturday’s big London demo were written before the event.

The peaceful protest against the Con-Dem program of drastic public service cuts would be ‘hi-jacked’ by violent elements.

The day would be ‘marred’ by ‘thugs in black’ – anarchists, who for some reason were to be dubbed ‘fascists’ and ‘mindless’ by various officials.

Well, I was one of the 250,000 or 400,000 (according to different police statistics, depending on the point was being made) and my day was not marred.

The march, called by the Trades Union Congress, was amazingly good natured and represented a good sampling of British society from across the country.

Most were happy to march and rally and express their views with chants and placards, drums and whistles.

A comparative few protesters wanted to take more direct action. Hence the peaceful occupation of the Queen’s grocer, Fortnum and Mason, by 300 or so activists from UK-Uncut, the organization that has been targeting companies accused of tax avoidance. (Some £120 billion is lost each year due to tax evasion and avoidance – more than the £80 million or so budget cuts the government is making this year.) For video footage see  http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/independent-coverage-of-occupy-for-the-alternative

A different lot of protesters threw paint and broke the windows of banks, tax avoiding shops such as Vodaphone, Top Shop and Boots, and iconic symbols of conspicuous wealth – such as the The Ritz hotel.

And others, many of them anarchists, attempted to occupy Trafalgar Square for 24 hours, resulting in the clashes with police, now beamed across the world.

I was one of the many who marched peacefully and expressed my views that way. But when I saw the UK-Uncut occupation of tax-avoiding Fortnum and Mason, I thought: ‘Good! That makes the point’

Coming across the paint-daubed and smashed windows of HSBC or RBS I did not think: ‘The people who did this have hi-jacked our protest’. Rather, that this was an expression of the outrage that many, many people feel. And compared with the damage that the banks and financial sector have done, and continue to be allowed to do, this is nothing. Really nothing. These smashed windows are not costing lives and livelihoods.

The actions of banks and tax avoiding corporations are costing lives and livelihoods as vital public services are raided to pay for the folly and greed of the rich. And this damage will last for generations. Those who are getting all hissy and prissy about a few smashed windows really need to get a sense of perspective.

Among the many homemade placards on the march was one carried by a small girl which read simply: ‘This is a sign’.

Indeed – and there are many ways of making it.  People are angry and rightly so.

And there are – and should be – different strategies for battling against the politically motivated destruction of the public.

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