What can I say? It was big. Police estimate 35,000 took part in the Put People First march and rally in London on Saturday, demanding action on ‘Jobs, Justice, Climate’. Despite dire warnings from more hysterical sections of the media, it was peaceful. And it was diverse - around 100 civil society groups took part, with no one dominating (though there were rumours that one group, unconnected with PPF coalition, had tried to hi-jack the start of the march).
At the Hyde Park rally, writer and activist Susan George pointed out that ‘the banks belong to us’ while comedian Mark Thomas urged us to ‘kill capitalism’ Trade union leader Brendan Barber called for urgent action on jobs and housing, while marchers demanded: ‘bail out people, not banks’
Are the world leaders, who are due to attend Thursday’s G20 meeting in London, listening to the people on the streets? (There have been big protests in several other countries too). It’s hard to tell. Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are certainly deft at using the rhetoric and spouting some of the ideas (‘green new deal’, ‘tax justice’ etc) developed by left, environmental and civil society groups. But where’s the follow-through? Where exactly is the action for jobs, justice, climate?
Well, the G20 leaders may get to hear a lot more during the next few days. At 12 noon on 1 April environmental activists are to set up a 24-hour Climate Camp at the European Climate Exchange in London’s financial heart (www.climatecamp.org.uk). Other activists are organizing a Party, at 12 noon on 1 April, outside the Bank of England (for details www.G-20meltdown.org). And an Alternative- G20 Summit at Docklands campus of the University of East London is planned for the same day, from 4-9pm.
Meanwhile the Put People First coalition will be working to ensure the G20 leaders know we’re still watching them. To keep in touch with what’s actually happening at the G20 summit, follow the G20Voice project (www.g20voice.org). Fifty expert bloggers, given a high level of access to the Summit, can let you know just how the leaders are doing in addressing issues such as jobs, justice, climate.