|Outside the One Stop Shop. Photo: @rpattinson83|
Around fifty people marched from the Woodward Road estate in Rock Ferry, Wirral, to the local council One Stop Shop yesterday lunchtime, in a display of defiance against the bedroom tax. A high concentration of people on the estate are affected by one of the coalition government’s most vicious domestic policies, and with the possibility of evictions looming, tenants are organising themselves to defend their homes.
The demonstration began at a quarter to twelve, and walked just over a mile to the One Stop Shop, where several residents handed in their latest appeal forms, and signed a petition. The event was entirely self-organised and stewarded by bedroom tax campaigners, with no involvement from police. It was the first Wirral demo of any kind outside of Wallasey and Birkenhead town centre in many years, and all the more remarkable for taking place during the middle of a week day.
Maybe ten people from bedroom tax campaigns across Merseyside made the journey to Rock Ferry to offer their solidarity, but the bulk of the participants were from Woodward Road – an extraordinary achievement for a grassroots community organisation. Women, men and children all played their part to make as much noise as possible, and really announced their group’s existence to the rest of Rock Ferry. Some held homemade placards and banners with pride, while others blew whistles and chanted.
One particular chant – so familiar to long-time campaigners – took on a poignant new meaning in the mouths of children on their first ever demonstration. “Whose streets? Our streets!” shouted young people on the streets where they have grown up, but from which they are now threatened with removal for the crime of poverty.
When the procession reached the One Stop Shop, speeches were made appeals were handed in en masse, with staff looking quite bemused and flustered at being greeted by a demonstration at work.
In the scheme of things, fifty people at a demonstration might not seem like a lot, and indeed one passerby who uploaded photos to the ‘Wirral Talk’ website described it as “Very Small Bedroom Tax March”. But what the photographer probably didn’t realise was that this was the work of just one estate.
While most ‘left’ parties focus their attentions on the small proportion of the working class who are unionised, the ruling class austerity onslaught is creating whole communities who have nothing to lose from fighting back. The tragedy is that there are many other Woodward Road estates where people have yet to collectively organise, and where individuals feel desperately alone. May the growing Woodward Road resistance inspire people around Merseyside, and throughout the whole country!