The anti-cuts struggle in Birmingham moved up another notch on Saturday with a very successful city centre demonstration. It was organised by Birmingham against the Cuts; a collective of Trades Unions, Political organisations, Campaign and Community groups, initiated by Birmingham Trades Union Council.
Over a 1000 demonstrators representing a variety of organisations, anti-cuts groups and trades unions gathered in the grounds of Saint Phillips Cathedral, with more joining as the march gathered pace. Despite earlier wet weather, this turn out was extremely good. Many were taking part in their first ever demonstration and this gave a very refreshing atmosphere with a lively and noisy procession through the streets.
We are grateful to the Bishop for allowing us to use the Cathedral Square to gather, but less than grateful to the Council who wanted to restrict our march to a few back streets; platitudes in favour of democracy in the Middle East from Cameron were not matched by Tory practice in Birmingham! This was more restrictive than the police view.
However, the march set off in high spirits along a short route, but one which did go through the city centre shopping area. The reception from shoppers in High Street and New Street was enthusiastic. As the march went along New Street, activists from UK Uncut staged an impromptu blockade of tax-dodgers Barclays Bank on the High Street and Burtons (another of Phillip Green’s enterprises) & Vodafone on New Street . This kind of street theatre played an important role in getting the message across that there is an alternative to the cuts, and it lies with making the fat-cat corporations and the banks pay. It also generated considerable public sympathy.
On the march there were contingents and banners from Save Birmingham Youth Service (CYWU-UNITE), Social Work Action Group, Women2gether, Friends of Moseley Baths, Campaign to Retain our School Service (CROSS), Connexions, the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Right to Work Campaign, the People’s Charter, the Clarion Singers (who wrote a song especially for the occasion), the Alliance against Birmingham Academies,, GMB, UNISON, CPS, UNITE, CWU, UCU, and the NUT. The march was led by contingents from Birmingham against the Cuts and Birmingham Trades Union Council.
There were speakers at the start and end of the march; Lee Barron (the regional secretary of the CWU and the new chair of West Midlands TUC, Trudy Allen (PCS), Roger Jenkins (GMB), Grahame Horn (Birmingham UNISON), James Smith (UCU), Roger Mackenzie (West Midlands UNISON), Bob Williams-Findlay from Disabled People against Cuts, Stuart Richardson (Birmingham TUC), Doug Morgan (Birmingham NUT), Caroline Johnson (Birmingham Against the Cuts), Albert Bore – the Council Labour Leader, Andy Chaffer (People’s Charter), Maxie Hayle – Black People Rising Against the Cuts, Matt Raine from the Right to Work Campaign, Doug Morgan (NUT), FE student activist Tom Maguire-Wright and Joyce Canaan – UCU and BCU Against Cuts and Fees.
The rally was chaired by UNISON Birmingham’s Joint Secretary Caroline Johnson.
Considerable media coverage was generated, including interviews with Bob Williams-Findlay, on behalf of Disabled People against Cuts and Stuart Richardson, on behalf of Birmingham Trades Union Council.
Overall, the demonstration counts as another big success for Birmingham against the Cuts, after an impressive public meeting the previous week at the Council House. It shows once again what can be done when the left, the unions and campaign groups work together with an inclusive and democratic spirit.
Tomorrow from 2pm-6pm Birmingham City Council holds the full council meeting where the budget will be voted on. Unison and Birmingham Against the Cuts will be holding a demonstration outside the council house at the same time. Come and join us – if you can’t make the afternoon the demonstration will go on until at least 6pm.