Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/845/20168
Defend the right to protest
As the general election approaches, even though the result may be hard to predict, one thing is clear: the victory will be with big business as austerity continues.
However, it's also clear that these further cuts will provoke a fightback from trade unions, activists and community campaigners.
Already we have seen the ability to challenge austerity thwarted with the likes of the 'gagging law' (aka Transparency of Lobbying Bill, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act) and the government's attacks on trade unions.
Recently, the Metropolitan Police has said that it will no longer police many demonstrations within London - forcing campaign groups to employ, at considerable expense, private companies to formulate their traffic management plans and steward road closures.
Local authorities already make organisers jump through several hoops before they can go ahead with a protest. This is yet another bureaucratic attempt to curtail the struggle against austerity.
Organisers will be expected to present their road traffic management plan to local authorities and then ensure that stewards marshalling road closures are trained in chapter eight of the government manual of traffic safety measures.
This is way beyond the skills of most organisers forcing them to use private companies that they simply can't afford. Local authorities will no doubt use this to pressure groups away from demonstrating.
'Million Women Rise' has estimated, after the Met police refused to steward their International Women's Day demo, it would cost them £10,000 to implement. The Campaign against Climate Change has also been told to pay for its own traffic plans on the 7 March 'Time to Act' demonstration.
This is another attempt to silence any opposition. At the same time the Irish police are arresting activists who are fighting the water charges, a deliberate shift towards political policing (see page 9). Last year the police shut down student occupations using brutal violence, notably in Sheffield and Warwick universities.
These actions are a powerful reminder to activists that the state will clearly use anything within its powers to prevent attempts to challenge the capitalist austerity agenda.
Following a huge public outcry, the Metropolitan Police has now backed down on its insistence that the organisers of the forthcoming climate change and International Women's Day demonstrations must pay private companies thousands of pounds to organise road closures in the capital.
However, the police force said the climbdown did not represent a change in policy and future march organisers would have to negotiate with police to secure their cooperation.
In The Socialist 25 February 2015:
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