Insider's guide to the fringe events at London's massive anti-cuts rally tomorrow

[The below is from Tim Hardy, an activist and writer from London interested in the role of technology in driving social and political change, editor of Beyond Clicktivism and member of Sukey.]

This Saturday, hundreds of thousands will gather in the UK capital to demonstrate against shock doctrine tactics from a Conservative-led government. Not only has the finance industry walked away scott free after destroying the economy but the damage they caused is being used by the party they fund to push back the hard-won gains of a century in society's care for its most vulnerable. They claim there is no alternative. We are demonstrating because that is not true.

A giant wooden horse will appear at Camberwell in south London in the morning. A critical mass of cyclists will form in the east. Slowly from all points of the compass, weird and wonderful groups of protesters will begin to coalesce in what promises to be a spectacular day of demonstrations that may go on all night.

The Trade Union Congress who are organising the main event know of more than 600 coaches and nine special trains bringing demonstrators from around the country - and of one person who is walking from Cardiff. A recent protest organised on Facebook in Portugal mobilised nearly half a million people at short notice. It is not unreasonable to imagine that numbers might reach a million.

The itinerary of the official march is to form at Victoria Embankment from 11am then to set off to Hyde Park for a rally starting at around 1:30 and continuing until around 4:30pm. Among the marchers following the official route will be blocs including 6 Billion Ways, Buggy bloc (for people with children), the Green Party, the Quakers, Women's bloc and the Woodcraft Folk.

The unions have been working hard to make access easier but for those who cannot physically make the day, Disabled People Against Cuts are also offering the chance to make your presence felt through a virtual protest map.

There are also several feeder marches starting from different areas of London and ending at Hyde Park, none officially recognised by the TUC. The largest will be the Education Bloc from ULU and the South London feeder march, from Kennington Park. The best sources for information on the feeder marches and blocs are Political Dynamite and Freedom Press.

On the fringes of the march, theatre activists will invite people to take part in alternative reality games using exercises drawn from the Brazilian Theatre of the Oppressed.

Sukey will be doing its best to keep people safe, mobile and informed on the day with live map updates showing kettles and blocked roads, a smartphone app and free SMS service. If the police do use the controversial technique of kettling, then SOAS University students will be maintaining a Kettle Cafe to provide people with food and water within the containment zones.

Indy Media London will be providing their news service with rss access to updates. VisionOn.TV will be offering a platform for video journalists to share their reports. Dissident Island and Resonance 104.4 FM will be providing radio coverage of the day.

At most festivals, the most interesting things occur at the fringe and the same is true for the 26 March.

At 2.00pm the crowds will begin to quieten, shushing one another until an eerie silence is achieved. Then at 2.10pm from the distance the sounds of World War 2 air raid sirens will begin, growing louder until 2.11pm when everybody is encouraged to make as much noise as they possibly can as hundreds, maybe thousands split off for a range of direct actions around London.

These include UK Uncut who will Occupy for the Alternative, targeting tax dodging banks and shops on Oxford Street whose legal exemptions, if stopped, would pay for the services being destroyed. Many other actions will become apparent on the day.

Don't think that when the speeches end at 4.30pm it's time to go home.

Battle of Britain themed parties with bunting, tea and cakes will be served from 5pm at key points on the map. As night falls, activists will seek to turn Trafalgar Square into Tahrir Square and Occupy Hyde Park for 24 hours. Mass sleep outs to protest at Westminster Council's planned criminalisation of homelessness will also be occurring.

Make your voice heard, stay safe, bring your sleeping bag - and don't forget to keep your eye out for the pirate cinema!


  1. wish you luck from canada, those bastards have to learn that we are onto there sneaky tricks and that the government is there for everyones needs. not just those with the most money

  2. I agree stop these labour cuts from happening again, dont vote labour.
    These are labour cuts that have to be made because labour spent all the money and had a soft touch with the banks.

  3. A word of warning. These protests are organized by the same group who funds the opposition party. So expect to hear a lot about how bad the current (Conservative) government is and not a single word on how the previous government (Labour)

    – caused a huge deficit by overspending

    – used the Private-Finance Initiative to keep expenses off the books and burdening future governments with debt

    – insisted that a “light-touch” regulation combined with a toothless enforcement agency was a good thing for the banking sector

    Do not agree with many Tory policy but blaming them for all the woes is unfair at best. This rally is mostly astroturfing by government workers.

  4. as an American expat in UK who attended the G20 demonstrations I was rather surprised to find myself in a huge temporary detention camp known here as “kettling”. I managed to escape when the brave souls around me charged the police line and I swore that I would never let myself be unofficially arrested like that again. I WILL go to London tomorrow but will avoid any large concentration of demonstrators. I refuse to be imprisoned again.

  5. Drabula, that’s exactly what Sukey’s there to avoid.

    I’ll be there (on one of the specials from the wilds). Pity it’s a flying visit, because I *love* what I’m reading. Ah well. Got my Sukey, got my kettle snacks and vinegar. Sorted. Now, “oi, tories: NO!”

    1. rwmj, don’t come here with your “facts” and “logic” about how the UK in actual fact is pretty broke. because bankers received their bonus, and although we already took half of that, it’s not enough! i want moar!!

  6. Which are you protesting about? The banks or the deficit? The banks have many faults, but they didn’t cause the deficit. That’s the result of the previous goverment making promises it didn’t have the money to keep. They chose to borrow the difference, which is just asking our children to pay for us today.

    It’s easy to make promises and the only hard job in politics is chosing who has to pay for them.

    1. Nevermind. Found details.

      Bike Bloc/Hackney meetup point
      Meet 10am Hackney Town Hall for a critical mass in to London, reminding people to come on the march. People from Hackney going in by public transport will also be meeting up here, as well as at Homerton Hospital at 9.30am.

    2. Nevermind. Found details.

      Bike Bloc/Hackney meetup point
      Meet 10am Hackney Town Hall for a critical mass in to London, reminding people to come on the march. People from Hackney going in by public transport will also be meeting up here, as well as at Homerton Hospital at 9.30am.

  7. @rwmj
    Using your same source, you might want to look at the following graph. It shows that the amount of overall public debt is extremely low and any claims by the ConDems are exaggerated.

    The highest spike in the last ten years is as a result of the bank bailout, but otherwise fairly stable. It’s this spike which commenters reference when they make alarmist statements about the state of the economy.

    The recent decisions by this government are not reflected in either party’s manifesto. They are actively destroying the NHS and it WILL come back to bite them. I cannot stand by and do nothing when there is an opportunity for private companies to make profits out of public services.

    These shock financial ‘saving’ tactics are already having a knock-on effect on growth, education, employment and healthcare. There is no evidence that this kind of emergency cutting is a) effective in reducing debt or b) sustainable. This will lead to mass unemployment and public services that rival third-world countries.

    1. Thanks OlMighty. Let’s not let the right-wing define the debate around scary numbers they don’t understand. There is also this:

      “At the moment UK debt is worth 70 per cent of GDP – but the country has spent 180 of the last 260 years with the national debt at above 80 per cent of GDP. Between 1920 and 1960 government debt never fell below 100 per cent. After the Second World War the national debt was far higher – around 250 per cent of GDP – but
      we invested in creating the National Health Service and building the welfare state.”

      (Taken from “”).

      Don’t forget that this march is also for people affected by changes to disability benefit, such as the proposed cancellation of mobility benefit. Not everyone affected by these cuts can physically make it on the day. The only thing that’s not supportable is the Tory cuts.

    2. Likewise, the average annual level of UK inflation has been around 4.5% (what it currently is), but we’ve had a bizarre thirty years or so in whcih the Bank of England (forced by the Treasury) has been trying to contain it at less than 2%. Not surprisingly, the methods used caused potentially irreparable damage to the “real” economy in favour of things like the financial sector and the housing bubble.

      I shall be there tomorrow. Protests don’t change things instantly – but they do change things.

    3. You mean, after a couple of gigantic wars (or one long but discontinuous war), the country was in more debt than it is today. Right! However the country also struggled under that enormous debt.

      There are much better things to march about than “cuts”:

      – Looming crisis in pensions.

      – The fact that wealth is tied up in the older generation, leaving many young people disproportionately poor.

      – Lack of scientific and engineering education amongst the young, and how that’s going to cause us to lose massively against China and India quite soon.

      1. “The fact that wealth is tied up in the older generation, leaving many young people disproportionately poor.”

        If you are referring to the wealth of experience, I am afraid that the disproportion you complain of is irremediable.

  8. March to save the diversity officers!

    Well no, I won’t. The rise in the state was a labour stunt to solve unemployment by increasing the state with countless pointless jobs.

    I work with local and national government every day, Its an endless stream of people who do nothing. You could easily fire 25% of the staff without affecting services at all.

    1. Tip: When used derogatorily, the phrase ‘Diversity officer’, is a shibboleth for Sun-reading, knee jerk regressive, little Englander Clarkson-worshipping clunges, in the same vocabulary as ‘PC gone mad’ and ‘I’m not racist, but..’

      So if you’re not one of those, you should probably avoid using that phrase. If you think you might be one, you need to hide it better.

  9. “… as well as reducing the frequency of solo sex acts like masturbation” – there are others?!?

  10. As a few people have pointed out on here, debt spending is not intrinsically and absolutely a problem. But it is still questionable to what extent what the TUC proposes is an alternative. If anyone’s interested, there is a short text by ‘Kittens’, a sort of lefty group in London, which assesses the slogan ‘Jobs, Growth, Justice’ and the proposals put out in the TUC pamphlet. It’s important to realise that while one can legitimately be against the cuts, one might not necessarily want to endorse the TUC’s position, which, far from being an alternative, is practically just Labour policy dressed up in protester clothing.

  11. I will be there!

    While I agree that savings can be made in the public sector, the level of cuts proposed by the government is just ridiculous and has not been thought through properly.

    The NHS is at risk.
    HE Colleges are on the brink of collapse.
    Social Services are so underfunded and stretched they cannot provide the care they ought to and yet, they need to reduce their expenditure?

    I have worked in the public sector for more than 3 years (not a civil servant) and have never had a pay rise. My job has been at risk for those 3 years and now the whole business is about to collapse.
    We run on minimal staff and costs and we are started to run out of ideas as to how to save even more money.
    When we have a meeting, we can’t afford sandwiches, all you get is water and a custard cream.
    When members of staff need to travel, expenses are paid out of their own pockets. There’s no fancy Xmas do at the end of the year…
    Management is starting to tell us to do a “sloppier” job because we simply don’t have the budget to do our job properly! Let me tell you that money is not wasted here!

    I think it’s high time people stopped thinking that the public sector is paid to do nothing! We do our job on lower wages that the private sector and we don’t expect to be handed a bonus at the end of the year just because we managed to do the work we’re paid for anyway!

    The government messed up because it failed to restrain the banks and the banks failed by being too greedy. This is why we’re in this mess. I fail to see how the NHS, the Police force, the Education institution, etc, should bear the brunt for that f*ck up!

    Money must be saved to get ourselves out of this mess but, please, leave us enough budget so that we can function!

    1. > The NHS is at risk.

      The NHS funding is ring-fenced from cuts. It’s also massive: £100 billion a year. Even with some cuts, that huge amount of spending is not going away (nor would anyone want it to).

      > HE Colleges are on the brink of collapse.

      This is simply complete nonsense. Colleges have expanded enormously over the past 20 years so now about 50% of young people go to them. Even the small proposed cuts here will still mean huge numbers of people going to college who would not have done so only a generation ago.

      1. I work in a very large London HE College. We are not able to survive the budget cuts. We are very close to collapsing.
        Funding has been cut, the EMA has been cut. The 2011-2012, as currently proposed by the government, will get no funding at all! The College won’t get the money from the government and the loans to students won’t be in place yet!! This is a complete joke!
        Do you seriously envisage someone studying for a Level 2 or 3 vocational qualification and getting in massive debts for it?
        Would you you get in debt for a GCSE? an NVQ in Hairdressing?

        I don’t call 25% cut a small cut. We were struggling before the budget hacking, I think that the “small cut” you’re talking about might be the last straw!

          1. All 3 major South London Colleges. Do you think Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth are merging for the fun of it?

          2. Merging to make them more efficient I’d guess. Look at how the University of London’s old colleges have merged and dissolved over the past 3 decades — those colleges are stronger than ever now.

            Anyway, we’ll see in a few years time if this college has actually “collapsed” as you said, or whether it’s still going and running more efficiently.

          3. As I said before, we cannot, as we stand, run more efficiently!
            I don’t know about the other two colleges, but we can’t! We’ve already had so many redundancies and restructuring, it’s a miracle we’re still standing!

            We are currenlty thinking about employing the students to run some services in exchange for some kind of “discount”. It really is this bad!

            I agree that merging is not a bad solution and I kind of look forward to how it’s going to pan out. I hope that it’ll offer opportunities for me, but I’d much rather we didn’t merge, stayed small and people kept their jobs.

      2. > “The NHS funding is ring-fenced from cuts. It’s also massive: £100 billion a year. Even with some cuts, that huge amount of spending is not going away (nor would anyone want it to).”

        I’m only going to respond to the NHS statement because that’s where I’m involved. I’ll try and be succinct, but this is the tip of an enormous iceberg.

        1. The NHS is already underfunded; current rises at best equate to a 0.1% increase above inflation. This is not a rise, given that the DH has already earmarked hundreds of millions of pounds of that money to support government initiatives. This is not new money. It comes out of existing allocations, confirmed by David Cameron. This will end up reducing the availability of funding to support other areas and existing commitments which were determined again by the DH.

        2. Contrary to popular perception, the NHS is undermanaged. The evidence for this is already available – public companies generally have staffing rate of about 8-10%, the NHS has a running cost of between 2-3%. I make no assumptions about how hard people work in the private sector, but I’m well aware of how hard we all work. Disclaimer: I am one of those NHS managers. I work at a PCT (Primary Care Trust). Please do not confuse PCT managers with those from the DH. DH is full of overpaid management consultants that would invoice you for a newspaper for them to read on a train (true story).

        3. As a result of the DH’s white paper from last July, PCTs are obliged to reduce ‘running costs’ (originally staffing costs) by 45% over the next two years. This means that on top of a PCT’s existing workload, PCTs have been told to make £20b of savings over the next 4 years, as well as supporting the development of GP Consortia. This triples the workload of staffing which is due to reduce drastically.

        4. The NHS reorganisation hands £80b of our money to GPs. These are independent contractors, essentially private companies in their own right. These GPs also run their own companies. They will refer you to their own companies, taking a profit from the reduced cost of referrals AND from providing the service. This will be managed by private companies designed to make profits and take market share. This is a huge conflict of interest and the thought of people making profits out of our tax money is frankly appalling. The kind of profits involved could be big enough to make bankers want to change profession.

        5. GP Consortia do not have the capabilities to manage the kind of amounts they are being asked to. Some will look for profit, others will tie themselves into expensive management organisations and the rest will fail.

        This is not new information. Concern has been voiced by GPs, the BMA, the RCGP, PCTs, Lib Dem rebels, public and patient groups, and many others.

        There’s a reason they call Andrew Lansley ‘La-La Lansley’ – he lives in La-La Land and whenever he hears criticism, he sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts ‘LALALALALALAAA’.

        Apologies for the long post, but this is an emotive subject for me. This is my money, your money and it’s paying for our services. If this plan goes through, it will destroy the NHS. In 4 years time, Labour will be asked to put it back together, not out of preference, but because no one will want to see the ConDems in power.

  12. …although in most societies it is true that the simple passage of time will itself solve that “problem”.

    Perhaps for forms of wealth other than experience, too.

  13. Amazing how, as soon as the Labour Government exits stage left, the usual suspects enter stage right. Anarchists, socialists, trotskyists and trade unionists, all hiding behind an anti-cuts banner in an attempt to hoodwink the public into thinking its something they should be supporting. Let’s be clear – many of the groups behind this sort of protest have hidden agendas that they are very wary of making clear to the people they try to attract.

    What is their alternative – nothing but wishful thinking and flimsy economics. They don’t need a realistic solution – because they don’t really care about solving the problem…

    1. Look where the brilliance of our current economic thinkers have gotten us! A a hollowing out of every western economy, wage slaves and joe jobs for everyone! Keep unemployment high, employers can keep wages low. Rich get richer, evaporation of the middle class….

      when are you going to learn? Its time for some new approaches.

      Don’t be afraid. Get on the right side of history this time!

  14. Anyway, I have the afternoon off so that I can go to the hospital. I’ll ask the nurses there their view on the subject… Seeing you can’t rely on all the people who talk about the cuts without knowing the first thing about them.
    Then when I’m being kettled on saturday, I’ll try to have a word with a policeman about it too :)

  15. BTW – how can you “occupy” Hyde Park – its open to the public – that’s the whole point of it!

  16. I’ll give odds on at least 7 of the following 9 points being true of rwmj

    rmwj –

    – Went to public school and is independently wealthy
    – Is not a public worker
    – Is not a professional
    – Does work in Finance, Recruitment, Real Estate or some other useless industry
    – Does not donate to charity (and an annual 100 pounds to the Army Museum doesn’t count)
    – Enjoys bloodsports
    – Is not in the slightest effected by the cuts
    – Voted Tory
    – His whole family have voted Tory for years

      1. His points were getting adressed, by somebody who was actually experiencing the problems, somebody much better placed than I to comment.

        And it’s not ad hominem because I actually have no idea that any of them are true. They are observations in response to his comments, not statements of fact.

        1. Sorry, can’t read, you’re right on precisely one point: I’m not a public worker. I work at a private company, very hard, to make a living.

          1. I work in the public sector, very hard, to make a living. In fact, I make less than I’d be getting in the private sector.

            I made a choice to work here, because I find it more fulfilling to have a job which directly gives back to people, rather than turning a profit for a corporation. (And yes, I’ve worked in the private sector too.)

            There are undoubtedly people in the public sector who have “made up” jobs, or don’t work hard, or are incompetent, but no more than in the private sector.

        2. adamp, with respect it is ad-hominem because you appear to be trying to counter his argument by undermining his credibility by appealing to his personal status and not his argument.

          For what it’s worth, this just demonstrates Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” is just as necessary in the UK as in the US.

          How about – “I respect your right to hold your opinion and I respect you for presenting it. I don’t happen to agree with it but that doesn’t make you a jerk. Here’s my take which may convince you otherwise if you do me the courtesy of consideing my view …”

          Yeah – not twitter speak is it :-)

          Crash writing from 1911 it appears

  17. Is this the first time Sukey has been used? Hopes it works as advertised, looks like a fantastic app.

  18. I’m surprised at the argument that previous debt levels makes it okay for the UK to return to them. Wasn’t the UK pretty miserable, financially, in the years after WWII? (for example, sugar rationing didn’t end in the UK until 1953.) I don’t see how that’s a good argument for those debt levels being “okay.”

  19. Go demonstrators. I’ll be thinking of y’all this Saturday . . .
    It amazes me how not only Britain but the other European countries are embracing austerity as their watch word when Keynesianism is the way to go. In an economic downturn, the government needs to SPEND to create jobs, not go on a budget cutting spree. From what I have heard, the UK budget cuts have put a break on the economy.

    1. Hello, people of the U.K.


      You are all numbers. You have ceased to be free men and free women. You are all subjects with no rights whatsoever.

      You have a choice. You can be nameless, faceless numbers.


      You can be free citizens.

      If you choose to be free citizens, be aware that you might be hurt, you might bleed. You might die.

      For example. Kettling. Did it ever occur to you huddled masses, held in place by a couple of plods on horseback, that there are FAR MORE OF YOU, then there are of them?

      You know, if two people grab the front and rear legs of a horse on the same side, it’s really easy to lift and push that horse right over.

      What’s that? You don’t want to hurt the policeman? The police have no qualms about hurting you.

      Sure, some people will get clubbed, some will get peppersprayed.

      But if you’re determined not to be nameless, faceless subjects herded into a cul de sac by the filth, you’ll take the chance of injuries so your fellows can escape.

      As we have seen in Egypt, the government CAN BE FORCED to resign, it can be forced to accede to the will of the people.

      SO. Are you free men and women?

      Or are you numbers. Faceless, nameless subjects?

      The choice is yours.

      Choose wisely.

  20. Sorry, no 2 should read:

    PRIVATE companies generally have staffing cost of about 8-10% of budget, the NHS has a running (not just staffing) cost of between 2-3%

  21. There are also massive anti-tax, anti-state, pro-freedom protests going on at the same time, in particular The Love Police and Lawful Rebellion.

    Basically, one big anti-government protest will ensue from all sides of the political compass.

  22. I was there. I wasn’t sure about going — I’m not entirely behind the TUC or other organisations on this — but in the end I decided my disagreements with the current government’s policies were strong enough that it was worth joining in.

    The turnout was huge. It’s impossible to judge the numbers on a march very accurately, and even less so from within it, but that was a heck of a lot of people. We were near the back, and didn’t get to the starting point until Twitter reports had people arriving at the end. We finally made Hyde Park at about 5.00.

    It seemed a very diverse crowd. People from a lot of places and professions are upset enough about this to get off their arses.

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