Thousands are gathering in London on Wednesday, protesting the conservative Tory government’s ‘oppressive and draconian’ austerity program.
According to the Guardian, organizers expect a crowd of around 5,000—including a large student bloc—to rally at Trafalgar Square, while another 2,000 are expected for a separate march from Downing Street through Westminster.
The demonstrations were scheduled to coincide with the Queen’s Speech, an annual event marking the formal start to the Parliamentary year, in which the Queen of England outlines what UK citizens can expect from the government in the upcoming year. Earlier this month, the UK elections brought a surprise lurch to the right, with the Conservative Party gaining full control of the government and Prime Minister David Cameron sweeping back to power with more muscle behind him than before.
During the campaign, Cameron vowed to cut welfare spending, weaken labor unions, and implement pro-business reforms in the education and healthcare sectors.
Or, as anti-austerity organizers put it in their call-to-action, “the new Government is going to try to: smash the welfare state by £12bn, privatise the [National Health Service], raise tuition fees, decimate local services, make strike action illegal, scapegoat migrants, worsen the housing crisis and to crush all dissent that stands in their way.”
Writing about “Tory brutality” in a People’s Assembly blog post on Tuesday, Ruby Utting wrote:
While the Tories appear to have backpedaled on a plan to repeal the country’s Human Rights Act, the speech delivered Wednesday by Queen Elizabeth II indicates that the party intends to follow through on many other campaign promises.
One Tory proposal, for example, would cut the housing benefit for 18-21 year olds—a plan the social service organization St. Mungo’s Broadway said would “make it extremely difficult for young people in vulnerable situations.”
“Democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box and it never ever has.”
—Hannah Sketchley, Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
Wednesday’s rally and march are in direct opposition to that platform, known as the Conservative Party Manifesto.
“It really is to remind the Conservative government…that there’s absolutely masses of people who are out there who they don’t represent and are ready to put up a fight if they do things which they mention in their manifesto,” said Hannah Sketchley, a spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), which organized the event in Trafalgar Square. “Democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box and it never ever has.”
Signaling growing momentum behind the opposition movement, other anti-austerity demonstrations are planned for Saturday, May 30 and Saturday, June 20.