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Defend the right to protest
Dan Celardi's article (Socialist 845) showed the dangers of the Metropolitan Police's decision not to police many demonstrations in London, leaving it to campaigners to employ private companies to formulate their traffic management plans and steward road closures.
This may partly be a protest against cuts by the police themselves. But its effect could be to intimidate people, especially first-time campaigners, from protesting, as they will face either having to pay out sums of money they can't afford or being bold enough to go ahead anyway without getting permission.
After public outcry the police backed down from insisting these costs are borne by 'Million Women Rise' and the Campaign against Climate Change on their protests, but they say this does not mean a change in policy.
However, the Fire Brigades Union strike and rally in London on 25 February was a magnificent answer to this threat. Thousands of firefighters marched from their rally to parliament, protesting outside and blocking traffic, then marched up Whitehall to do the same at Downing Street. This was a completely peaceful and fantastic, bold protest.
This shows us a way to overcome this latest threat to the right to protest. Trades councils and trade union branches in all London boroughs should make a public declaration that they will offer stewarding and assist local people who want to organise protests on issues that are in line with union policies.
In The Socialist 11 March 2015:
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