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The anti-austerity protest in London was about more than an Ed Miliband look-alike

I want people to know the real reason I was there staring at an armed police officer

Maev McDaid
Monday 11 May 2015 15:05 BST
Protests after the election: will the Tories unleash more austerity?
Protests after the election: will the Tories unleash more austerity?

You could be forgiven for thinking that on Saturday only two things happened – first, that the Women’s War Memorial was graffitied, and second that there was a riot police officer who looked remarkably like Ed Miliband.

When I took and tweeted that picture I knew it was funny, but I didn't expect to see it go viral. It's fascinating at first when you get retweeted hundreds of times, but then you start to realise: no one knows this was taken at an anti-government march, everyone just thinks it's a funny photo.

I want people to know the real reason I was there staring at an armed police officer. I joined the demonstration called by London Black Revs against the Tories, who had wasted no time in announcing the first of what will be many savage cuts and attacks on personal freedom. There were at least 2,000 people there (Sky News Claimed there were only 200) and the only violence I could see happened when the police charged the crowd, trapped them, and then brutally arrested people as young as 16 and kept them in cells all night.

I protested on the streets of London that day because, like at least 63 per cent of the population, I didn't ask for five more years of austerity and I won't accept it. The main parties want us to think that casting a vote for one of them every five years is democracy. The fact that they all support some level of austerity reveals this choice to be an illusion. That's why we march. Our society is more than the parties in power and we need to our voices to be heard.

We are in the very early days of majority Tory rule, and already we have seen evidence of their intentions. The Human Rights Act is under threat, £12bn further welfare cuts are to be made, and now we have a Justice Secretary in favour of the death penalty. The new government, much like the previous coalition supports a bedroom tax and disability cuts. It aims to punish millions for the sake of millionaires. People are going to die because of the government's carelessness and lack of compassion.

That's why we need to fight back through national and local campaigns against cuts, through strikes in our work places, and by demanding a fairer society. We must support those who are most vulnerable, by opposing the cuts and winning victories over pay and conditions.

To those outraged by the graffiti, I ask you to take that outrage and use it for people today, people who will suffer because of more cuts to welfare and public services. Why is stone worth more outrage than the bedroom tax imposed on the families of dead soldiers because their room is now empty?

And to the almost 70,000 people across social media who think my picture was funny (and it was), please ask yourself - why were there armed riot police on the streets of London at an anti-austerity demonstration? What message is the government sending us, and who are the violent presence on our streets - protesters with placards or police with guns?

The People's Assembly have called for a national 'March Against Austerity' on 20th June. The Government needs to know we are serious. They don't represent us. See you there.

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