A bonfire of austerity

by Daphne Liddle

HUNDREDS of thousands of protesters throughout the world marched last Tuesday in a worldwide “million-mask” protest against austerity, initiated by the Anonymous movement.

And in London on Tuesday — traditionally bonfire night — two big marches converged on Parliament Square to completely fill it and then moved on to Buckingham Palace.

One of the marches paused nearly an hour to block Westminster Bridge with a bonfire of gas and electricity bills, which included effigies of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, who were debating in the House of Commons just a few yards away.

A little earlier several thousand gathered in Trafalgar Square for the Anonymous march and made their way to Parliament Square. The anarchic celebrity Russell Brand was among the leaders.

Police were obviously not prepared for the numbers, which kept on growing as protesters tweeted their friends to come and join them, and tried to keep traffic moving past the Palace of Westminster, where the light at the top of Big Ben indicated that Parliament was in session.

But the police efforts led to serious scuffles and one bus and a taxi became immobilised among a sea of protesters. Barricades meant to contain the crowds were breached and dismantled as police gave up trying to contain the numbers.

Meanwhile the Bonfire of Austerity march — organised by Unite, PCS, People’s Assembly, Stop the War, the Student Assembly Against Austerity and supported by pensioners and disability activists assembled in Jubilee gardens.

When it reached Westminster Bridge police had already cleared it of all traffic. And as the march approached the north end — where it must have been very visible to anyone looking out of a window in the Palace of Westminster — it paused for the bonfire of the bills.

The bonfire lit well in the cold dry wind and was built up with the gradual addition of placards and the effigies of Cameron and Clegg. Torches — sticks with the end bound in many layers of insulating tape — were handed out for the marchers to hold.

At one stage the bonfire was so big that police were concerned that the road surface was starting to burn.

Later this march completed its journey to join the Anonymous crowd in Parliament Square — to loud cheers from both groups.

There the whole crowd — still swelling as more young people responded to tweets to come — marched down the Mall for an impromptu rally outside Buckingham Palace and another bonfire where a firework rocket was set off, aimed at the Palace.

Throughout the world similar protests were taking place. There were hundreds of marches in the United States and throughout Western Europe and India. And there was a good scattering throughout Africa and Australia.

Hundreds of people turned out in New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and other US cities.

A small number of protesters were arrested in Washington, the first coming before 10:00 am local time when marchers stepped off the sidewalk and into the street.

A focal point of the DC protest was the ongoing, invasive surveillance methods employed by the National Security Agency as well as lingering American inequality.

The Washington rally began with a meet-up near the Washington Monument before marching up the street and dispersed after spending some time at the White House.

“We want President Obama to hear that five years after the financial crisis — the banks being bailed out — we’re still suffering, people are still suf- fering, we’re drowning in debt,” one participant told the Russia Today news agency from near the White House.

“We live in a country that is fundamentally unfair, we no longer have the rule of law,” he continued. “From the NSA, to Edward Snowden, to Chelsea Manning, all over the world, people are speaking out, whistle- blowers are speaking out, regular people are speaking out and saying enough is enough. We want justice and we want it now.”

In Greece the worldwide Anonymous protests coincided with the start of a new 24-hour strike over austerity measures and reforms introduced to tackle the country’s three-year debt crisis. Protesters marched under heavy rain in front of the parliament in central Athens, as international auditors continued an assessment of the country’s finances ahead of the release of further international bailout funds this year.

Throughout the world workers are sickened by the insatiable greed of the tiny minority of top capitalists — and by the erosions of civil liberties and increased perpetual surveillance — and they are starting to unite.