An estimated tens of thousands of people rallied in London on Saturday under the banner of a People’s Assembly Against Austerity to demand an alternative to the policies they say have benefited the top few, risk impoverishing millions and ignore the real root of the economic crisis.
The Assembly was formed in 2013 to mobilize and give platform to anti-austerity views and vision members say are absent from Parliament. Leading that original call was the late, anti-war activist Tony Benn, who said in an a 2009 interview with Democracy Now!, “You’ve got to judge a country by whether its needs are met, and not just by whether some people make a profit.”
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Saturday’s march began outside the headquarters of the BBC to protest what the organizers see as “the broadcaster’s lack of coverage of anti-austerity actions, nationally and regionally.” The march then continued to Parliament Square.
Ahead of the march, Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition described why she supports the People’s Assembly, saying that “a better world is possible”:
Among those speaking at the event was comedian Russell Brand, who told the crowd, “Power isn’t there (in the House of Commons), it is here, within us,” he said. “The revolution that’s required isn’t a revolution of radical ideas, but the implementation of ideas we already have.” It “will be a peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution,” he said.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told the protesters, “We are here with an important message for the government… That it wasn’t the poor who caused the economic crisis. It wasn’t people on job seeker’s allowance who brought down the banks. It wasn’t people with disabilities who are wasting billions speculating on risky financial markets. And it’s not immigrants who are thieving billions in bonuses. So that’s why we are here to say, ‘Stop punishing the poor!'”
“And we’re here to say stop this cruel and counter-productive austerity,” Lucas said.
MP Jeremy Corbyn spoke as well, saying, “There’s been a media campaign that’s been going on… Essentially it runs something like this: If you’re poor, it’s your fault. If you’re claiming benefits, you shouldn’t be. If you’re using the NHS excessively, you shouldn’t be….And it’s all your fault that we have an economic crisis at the present time.”
“There’s a blame game going on,” he continued, “which is designed to take all the attention away from the tax dodgers, the tax fiddlers, the property speculators, the land bankers, that are the real cause of the problem, the real cause of homelessness and the real cause of the housing crisis.”
Twitter users captured scenes of the event:
YouTube user Logical Change uploaded video Brand’s speech, which you can see below: