Protest in London calls for a general election

On Saturday, the People’s Assembly called a demonstration calling for a general election and anti-fascist activists rallied outside the Brazilian Embassy.

Placards at the People’s Assembly demo. Photo by Steve Eason.

Around 2000 people marched through London on Saturday demanding an end to austerity and to Tory rule, in a demo organised by the People’s Assembly. It should be clear that the turnout doesn’t reflect the scale of the opposition to the government’s murderous record. Across the country, there are campaigns and communities opposing cuts to vital services, rising poverty, housing crises and anti-migrant racism. That resistance was not as visible as it might have been on the People’s Assembly demo. Centring a call for a general election was a tactical decision to break the current Brexit deadlock and strengthen Corbyn’s platform, but it is a step removed from the struggles that people are directly facing, and the People’s Assembly’s roots in unions and campaigns are not as deep as they once were.

Meanwhile, a small band of far-right activists intending to disrupt the anti-austerity demo gathered in St James’s Park and then made its way to Whitehall. Both the People’s Assembly demo and the far-right squad wore yellow vests in reference to the ongoing gilets jaunes uprising in France. The right in Britain have been attempting to co-opt the yellow vest symbol, so the People’s Assembly’s use of it has at least established that the left in Britain stands in solidarity with the movement in France and won’t give up its symbol to the far right.

The People’s Assembly demo ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square. Author and Guardian columnist Owen Jones spoke at the rally and drew attention to the upsurge in far-right violence and intimidation (video below). Just after the protest had ended, Jones was assaulted by a group of far-right activists who tried to “swing punches”, yelled homophobic abuse and spat down his neck. Counterfire also reported that a steward had to have stitches after being hit by a bottle thrown by a fascist.

James Goddard, one of the ringleaders of the far-right yellow vest group, was arrested earlier in the day “in connection with incidents that happened in Westminster on Monday” (when Anna Soubry was swarmed by far-right yellow vest protesters), according to a report in The Guardian. He was later released on bail, and the Daily Mail ran the headline “A toast to freedom”.

On the same day, Brazilian Women Against Fascism, Ele Não Students London and others rallied outside the Brazilian embassy to show solidarity with the popular resistance movement against Bolsonaro. The demo was proudly internationalist, with placards of Bolsonaro alongside Hungary’s reactionary Prime Minister Orbán, and leaflets promoting a solidarity initiative with Russian anti-fascists who have been imprisoned and tortured.

The left in Britain must urgently support the Brazilian resistance by raising demands for an immediate stop to arms shipments to the Brazilian military, open borders for all those fleeing Bolsonaro and his fascist gangs, a prohibition on UK-based banks and businesses partaking in Bolsonaro’s plans for privatisation and destruction of the Amazon, and for the government to cut all diplomatic, economic and political ties with the Bolsonaro regime.

Brazilian Women Against Fascism. Photo by Steve Eason.

Read rs21’s leaflet for the People’s Assembly demo: Protests can bring the Tories down – Migrants are welcome here!

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