Friday, 28 October 2011

Demonstrating outside Liverpool City Council's Budget Question Time

Tonight, 100-150 people turned up at the Town Hall to demonstrate against the Budget Question Time called by the City Council to consult over the next round of budget cuts. It was a lively protest, which included some disruption within the meeting itself and direct action in the form of a road block.

I arrived at the Town Hall before the protest began, to find a bunch of people whose faces I recognised from other demos milling around over the road. I also met up with several other members and comrades of Liverpool Solidarity Federation. During this time, a student journalist from the University of Liverpool approached us and asked for some quick quotes. I explained that the protest was in opposition to the cuts, particularly those imposed by the council, and the job losses and service cuts they would impose on everybody.

Around five o'clock, a number of people turned up carrying loads of freshly made placards and leaflets, and this seemed to be the cue for everyone to head across the road and join the demonstration. It was also my indication to give Solfed's newly-made placards and the giant red-and-black flag for which I now had a long enough pole their first public airing.

For the first hour of the demonstration, we were contained to the pavement in front of the hall. This gave people little room to maneuver, and the line of police just off the pavement obscured the view of the Liverpool Against The Cuts banner and other signs. However, it was lively and there was plenty of chanting and people making noise with air horns which sounded like car horns when blown. Even if too much of it was of a "this isn't what a Labour council should be doing" or "the Tories are really to blame vein."

At six, when the event was due to begin, activists threw red confetti in the air as some kind of symbol of protest. More importantly, a bunch of us marched out into the road and blocked it, the bulk of the demonstration quickly following suit. The police didn't seem too happy with this state of affairs, and soon formed a line to push us back from the junction so that we could only block one stretch of road. At this point, there was a large amount of media attention and a general buzz which kept the chanting and noise going. It also, though there was no way we would be able to storm the Town Hall with police on the door and so little will for it, at least saw some disruption to the normal flow of events.

As time passed, people's enthusiasm began to wane somewhat, and individuals were dropping away surreptitiously. A decision to march around to the back of the Town Hall so that we could be better heard by those inside knocked the number present down to about 50. However, it did provide opportunity to shout through the windows at the council and generally vent spleen.

This didn't keep long, and it was soon decided to move back around the front of the Hall. However, this also put us back on the pavement as we were unable to reclaim our road block. There was still more chanting, and a suggestion that councilors were leaving via a side entrance leading to there briefly being a group on both entrances. However, we were soon down to thirty people on the front and enthusiasm had waned somewhat with so many people leaving the demonstration.

It picked up again with the appearance of two lads who turned out to be from the English Defence League. They took some pictures and chanted "E-E-EDL" at passers by, but otherwise were reduced to sniping from the other side of the road until they finally fucked off. Though not, it should be noted, before shaking the hand of the officer in charge of the police presence at the demo.

After this, several new people turned up at the protest, however two of them were drunk, had no idea what was going on and just wanted to wave placards about. A third decided to pace up and down shouting out various slogans, but it was unclear where he had actually come from.

Inside the building, we heard that Joe Anderson and the council got a tough time from the audience, to the point where people were threatened with removal, though this was never followed through in the end. However, whilst it was an embarrassment for them, there wasn't the force of numbers for more dramatic disruption or for an occupation as some had suggested. Instead, both the demo and the meeting ended fairly incongruously with people melting away.

We are a long way from the levels of anger - or at least militancy - that would see the kind of disruption I advocated ahead of the event. However, that doesn't mean we won't get there, and as the crisis of capitalism continues on more people are having their eyes opened. It may not be today but there will come a time when we make the city, and the country, ungovernable.