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Hundreds march and rally to defend South Tyneside hospital
Elaine Brunskill, Northern Socialist Party regional secretary
Up to 500 people marched and rallied to stop the threatened downgrading of South Tyneside hospital. As we marched through South Shields, bystanders clapped to show their appreciation of the campaign.
Our chant "we are ready to fight - the NHS is a human right" and others were taken up enthusiastically. At the end of the march one person commented "you lot are bloody good chanters!"
Trade unionists, community activists and political parties were joined by many who said they'd never been on a protest in their life - but understood the necessity of fighting for the NHS.
One grandmother told us she'd brought her two grandsons along to ensure they understood the importance of fighting to save the NHS. Another elderly woman said she remembered the birth of the NHS and was afraid that the Tories were intent on taking it away. Even school children were eager to sign our petition. It's clear that across the generations there's a growing mood to defend this vital service.
Socialist Party speaker Norman Hall got rousing applause when he called for the nationalisation of the pharmaceutical companies who leech millions out of the NHS.
But the biggest applause of the day was when he called for a 24-hour general strike to bring down this Tory government as the first step to save the NHS. One person in the crowd stood with a clenched fist salute during Norman's speech.
Unfortunately, none of the trade union speakers made a clear call for industrial action to defend their members' jobs and to fight this rotten Tory government's plans to decimate our NHS.
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