openDemocracyUK

Angry demo at Camden Town Hall as Labour council votes through cuts

There was a lively demo at Camden Council Town Hall last night to protest swingeing cuts to local jobs and services.
Guy Aitchison
1 March 2011

There was a lively demo at Camden Council Town Hall last night to protest swingeing cuts to local jobs and services. There are good write-ups, pics and vids from Harpy Marx, Madam MiaowDemotix.and Tim Hardy who managed to sneak into the meeting and live tweet it.

Around 1200 protesters, from all ages and backgrounds, marched from Mornington Crescent to the council building opposite King's Cross, which must rank it as one of the largest of the council demos so far. This is no small part due to the tireless prepraration by activists involved with Camden United Against the Cuts who this Saturday alone had eight street stalls in the local area. UCL also sent a large contingent having decided to adjourn its occupation that evening so as to combine energies with the new anti-cuts space down the road in Bloomsbury.

When we got to the Council building there were around 50 police guarding the entrance. It's clear the authorities have learnt the lessons of other recent council budget protests, such as Lewisham, where demonstrators stromed and occupied the chamber. There was some argy-bargy with police as we tried to gain entrance but they were determined to make sure councillors went about their business free from disruption by the hoi-polloi. When they told us the chamber was full, we were able to offer tweeted pics to prove it wasn't. So much for democracy!

Once it was clear no one was getting in, several hundred demonstrators formed a roadblock on Euston Road chanting "No ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts!". This was kept going for about an hour and a bizarre dynamic unfolded with the mayor apparently having informed the head of security that they would let protesters into the public gallery if they ended the roadblock. In the end they only let in around 15 protesters arbitrarily hand-picked by the police. No "trouble-makers" of course.

By this point 4 TSG vans had arrived, lurking menacingly in an adjacent side street. It's a level of mobilisation that's quite astonishing when you consider it was a local council meeting on a Monday night. As popular anger rises against the cuts, more and more force is being deployed to protect routine political processes.

Camden council is making £82.5m in cuts over three years, cutting 1,000 full-time equivalent jobs and axing libraries, play schemes and day resource centres for vulnerable older people. The clear demand of demonstrators was that Labour councillors refuse to do Pickles' dirty work and vote down the budget. Had they done so, it would have sent shock-waves through the political system and inspired others to take a stand against the Coalition's pitiless cuts agenda. Apparently a Green councillor was the only one to vote against the cuts in the end.

Local activists resolved to keep on fighting. The new anti-cuts space provides a venue from which they can link up, share ideas and organise with others in the broader movement. 

Update: See this excellent short film on the evening's events by the Gabber:

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