A demo against austerity in Bristol yesterday, organised by local students on Facebook, was a big success. Linda Nunns reports.
Today something happened in Bristol that nobody predicted. A group of students started a Facebook group a couple of days ago to organise a protest against austerity and to “get the Tories out”. 4,000 people said they were attending. I felt I had to go but with a cynicism that says social media can never replace old school political organisation. I expected 50 people. The most amazing demo transpired.
People flocked to the fountains, no-one seemed to know where we were going or who had organised it. The march went up Park Street (student area) back down to the centre (lots of commuters) through the town (lots of onlookers) and up to Castle Park for a rally. Interestingly this is a different route to previous trade union demos which have a shorter, more established route.
This route was visible, dynamic, impromtu and had impact. I did a rough count on Park Street and there were about 3,500 – so by the end it was indeed 4,000. What was different about this demo was how young it was. I hardly knew anyone – and that’s a good thing! The people marching were young, diverse, dynamic, loud, lively and seemingly new to politics – but certainly angry.
Interestingly the chants were old school but unfinished: “people united will never be defeated”; “students and workers unite and fight”; “defend the NHS”; “leave our human rights alone”. They knew the problems but possibly not the solutions. I have seen nothing like this in Bristol since the student protests in 2011.
The traditional parties were swamped. They didn’t organise it. They didn’t speak at the rally. The rally wasn’t political – in that there was no way forward – but a call to get involved in local campaigns. This has to be the way forward – community campaigns, housing activism, pressure on our Labour and Green councillors to oppose the cuts and relating to issues that affect young people. This could be the start of a new movement, without the constraints of the old left – it should be taken seriously.