|Before the off at Caspian Place|
Many hundreds of people raged through the streets of Bootle, Merseyside this morning, in protest against the Bedroom Tax, which is just one month away from implementation. The mass demonstration had been organised by grassroots resistance group Stand Up In Bootle, which only sprang up a few weeks ago. The display of anger should send fear into the hearts of bailiffs and politicians alike, but a series of speeches from the traditional left at the end rally saw much of that feeling temporarily dissipate.
Stand Up In Bootle came about primarily in response to the Bedroom Tax, following a Liverpool city centre meeting in January. It has grown over that short period of time through neighbourhood meetings and social networks, tapping into the vast reserves of class-based resentment towards the rich which was very much in evidence today. Activists and supporters from other areas of Merseyside also showed their solidarity, but it was very much a Bootle-based event.
The march assembled at the offices of local social housing association One Vision at Caspian Place, which were not very coincidentally closed for a ‘training day’. One Vision have admitted they will be looking to evict anyone who falls behind with their rent after their housing benefit has been cut by 15 or 25%, but seemed reluctant to discuss that with the residents of Bootle today.
|Marching past people’s houses like a proper thing|
The vibrant, jubilant mass passed The New Strand shopping centre following a ‘battle bus’ which was someone’s white van, and down the road to Sefton council offices. Along the way it received raucous support from passers-by, who in the main seemed stunned but happy to see what must have been the first mass demonstration in Bootle for many years. Participants spontaneously shouted anti-government, anti-rich slogans, and many brought extremely colourful homemade placards and banners. The mood was electric, and it felt like a marker was being put down – one of the nation’s poorest towns was saying ‘this far, and no further’ to the “government of toff wankers”. As a man on the megaphone put it: “They can stuff their cuts up their arses. I’m sick of us being treated like dickheads.” At least two hundred cheers went up, and loads of car horns blew.
The people of Bootle had put on a show better than anything the Liverpool left had done in a decade, and they had done it on a weekday morning.
There then followed a succession of speakers – many of whom have spoken at some of those lesser Liverpool demos. Compared to the fury of the crowd, many of them seemed dry, theoretical and tending towards irrelevane. Generally, they listed ways in which working class people are getting hammered – no news to many in attendance – without a single proposal for action. A group of perhaps one hundred at the front were keen to soak up every word, but further back some were shouting for “action, not words”, while others shook their heads at the constant mention of motions passed by trade union branches and the actions of the Troika. As time passed, more and more gave one last shake of the head before getting on their way. By the end, perhaps only a few dozen remained.
The old, trade union-based left will not be able to hold back the crowd for much longer – in Bootle or elsewhere on Merseyside. It is far too agitated for that, and the mixture will become even more volatile from April, when the money doesn’t stretch far enough to keep bailiffs away. Like similar groups throughout Liverpool, Stand Up In Bootle are committed to direct action, on the basis that they can’t pay, and they won’t pay. Aside from organising that – and supporting it – little more needs to be said.