Caz Parra, QMedia
Today’s strikes and marches were markedly different from the student protests of last year and the recent March for the Alternative. The success of industrial action and public shows of disaffection are difficult to measure. They could be judged by the number of people who turn out on the day or by the approval rating reported in the mainstream media, but the latter varies wildly between the different outlets.
In reality, those who were on the march will measure their own success on the impact today has on the ongoing talks between the government and the public service unions. The different speakers throughout the day said they were not fighting for themselves, but for society as a whole. Even though the strike was made up of workers from numerous sectors, the focus still seemed to be squarely on the changing landscape of education.
The marchers came from all age groups, with children and students supporting their parents and lecturers, but the proceedings were definitely led by the unions, which could explain why the atmosphere was so different from the earlier student led protests.
After weeks of preparation and informing their members, the Black Bloc found their plans to occupy Parliament Square stopped by a large metal barriers surrounding the area.
The police presence was lighter than at previous marches and friendlier in its demeanor. Several protestors were seen thanking the officers for the good management of the day.
There were three main rallies. The first, at Lincolns Inn Fields, where Love Music Hate Racism gave up their microphones to different union leaders, who congratulated the participants and, along with the music, lifted their spirits. From there, chants were loud as the throng threaded down the Strand towards Whitehall and into the Methodist Center Hall, opposite Westminster Abbey, where the main rally was held. Union leaders gave passionate and articulate addresses around the importance of education and the public sector to building a better society. Finally, outside, in the square opposite the Abbey, there was a People’s Assembly, where protestors sat down to discuss the situation and what could be done to move forward.
There were rumours of kettling at Whitehall but these are seemingly untrue, as while people were refused entry into the crowded street, exits were unhampered.
The was no violence or vandalism apparent as there was on other marches and the day finished earlier than its predecessors.