Three protests on 26 June

Submitted by martin on 29 June, 2021 - 5:37 Author: Martin Thomas
PA; trans rights; anti-vax

As the well-advertised, heavily union-backed People's Assembly (PA) march moved off on 26 June, I cycled from it to join the trans rights protest assembling at Wellington Arch.

It was a good few thousand. It was smaller than the PA protest but not that much smaller. It was younger and livelier; and, as far as I could judge from literature sales and conversations, pretty much as left-wing on "average" but in a more positive, less addled, way.

There were contingents (small contingents, but contingents) from a clump of National Education Union (NEU) branches (Haringey, Waltham Forest, Newham, Redbridge, Hackney). I got the impression, though, that most protesters had come not as organised contingents from political or union groups, nor as individuals, but as groups of friends: there was more conviviality as the protest assembled than at most.

The protest was mostly young, more heavily white than London's whole population but with sizeable numbers of black and (less so) Asian people. I found it moving, though, to see appreciable numbers of older trans people there, and reflect on years and decades they may have had to wait before seeing lively protests for their rights.

Pretty much all the left groups mobilised for the People's Assembly march (Workers' Liberty did, too); but as far as I could see only Workers' Liberty and SWP did for the trans rights protest, which was organised on a shoestring by comparison with the PA event. We, Workers' Liberty, could have done with having more there, too.

The People's Assembly drew several thousand protesters, but not tens or hundreds of thousands as some previous PA anti-cuts marches have.

It had long been scheduled and publicised and won union backing under the slogan "demand a new normal". The organisers had gone on the assumption that by now the pandemic would have faded and the issues would be about post-pandemic society. As the date approached, ten diverse demands, broadly anti-Tory, anti-cuts, green, were pasted onto it.

The core of it was a turnout of more-or-less longstanding left more-or-less activists, unlike some of the Kill The Bill and Gaza marches (or the Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020) dominated by fresh young protesters.

Many unions backed it. However, union contingents were generally weak, and even union banners were not that much less scanty than on the trans rights protest. There was a fairly sizeable Extinction Rebellion contingent.

Presumably through some behind-the-scenes deal with the PA organisers, the front of the demonstration was taken by a large group from Friends of Al Aqsa (who'd mobilised some younger people) protesting about Israel-Palestine (although none of the ten demands were about Israel-Palestine). Placards in the Friends of Al Aqsa contingent were bland, but one older protester strode around the front of it with a "Zionism is Nazism" placard and a megaphone message which, though mostly inaudible, sounded to be on "suppress Israel" lines. In truth a democratic and constructive way out demands recognising the rights of both peoples, Palestinian-Arab and Israeli-Jewish, and winning the right for the Palestinians of a real independent state of their own alongside Israel.

On the way between protests I passed the anti-vax, anti-lockdown protest setting off from Marble Arch. It wasn't as big as its organisers claimed, but it was big, bigger than the PA march. It was very heavily white; but with large numbers of women and younger people as well as older men. There was another big protest, younger though overlapping in theme, and pitched as “of the music industry”, on 27 June, with the slogan "Freedom to Dance".

We have work to do to convince many working-class people about the need for mutual aid against the virus, and about how measures like isolation pay, workers' control of workplace safety, and requisitioning Big Pharma can reduce the necessary restrictions.

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