Protest Report: Occupy Westminster Bridge

Protesters block the bridge next to the Houses of Parliament
It's our future David. Hands Off
Crowds on Westminster Bridge
Block the Bill: Symbolically, St. Thomas Hospital lies across the river
Protesters don scrubs and surgical masks
Our NHS!
Public Assembly held
Public debate and civil disobedience
Anarchist Soundsystem
Down with this sort of thing
People of all ages and from all walks of life get involved
Don't Cut the NHS
Hands off our NHS
The closest thing to democracy Big Ben has ever seen
Walls of Police look on
Peaceful protest despite Black Bloc contingent
Protester dons the V for Vendetta mask under the Anarcho-Communist flag and the London Eye

Protest thins out after the first hour
Mark Thomas and Josie Long talk to the crowds

Awesome percussionists
Wake up! Occupy your world
The battle for democracy begins
I’m beginning to get a bit fucked off at the mainstream media in this country (and the rest of the world for that matter). The BBC may as well rename itself the Tory Propaganda Network. The Occupy movement in the USA is still going largely unreported, and now British protesters are getting equally ignored. I would have thought thousands of people illegally occupying Westminster Bridge, right under the noses of Parliament, would have been worthy of a news report. A small footnote at least. Especially when you consider the protesters are trying to save one of the UK’s most precious and important institutions (the NHS), which is in practically everyone’s interest. The news is being filtered. Fact. Why aren’t they reporting these protests?

As far as I am aware, Channel 4 news was the only program to feature proper coverage of this event – please feel free to correct me in the comments section if I am wrong (I hope I am). Their report claimed only 2000 thousand people were on the bridge during the “Block the Bridge, Block the Bill” occupation – it seemed at least treble that to me, but of course it is hard to judge these things from the ground. Suffice it say when we first arrived at the bridge it was full. From end to end. Admittedly, within an hour or so this number had dropped considerably.

Still, a significant number of people stayed all afternoon, and it was a great occasion by all accounts. The atmosphere was positive and defiant and the tactics playful and imaginative. A large assembly was held where anyone could speak out and get involved, and this was followed by comedians and live music on the bridge. Spirits were high for the whole event, and the police were wise enough to let it all happen without confrontation. More protests and occupations were planned for the near future and everyone was home in time for tea!

But what will come of all this? Will the protest go unheard? Is the NHS doomed to privatisation??

The effectiveness of protest politics is indeed questionable. I lost faith in it myself after the Anti War movement failed to stop thousands being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know many others that felt the same. But the climate is changing. Millions of people are very angry. They are sick of austerity measures, banks and corporations calling the shots, the destruction of public services and the environment. They want real democracy, where people’s needs are put before corporate profits. From Tahir Square, to Wall Street, to Westminster Bridge – people are taking action, occupying public spaces and refusing to leave. A new people’s movement seems to be beginning… not that you’d have any idea from watching the news.

Can we do more to help save the NHS?

What’s next for UK Uncut? 

Channel 4 News bucks the trend

redeyewitness

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17 Comments

  1. Things change, (anicca), and greed, hatred and delusion find expression in a million and one ways. It is only a question of scale. In the 70’s, a “Labour” government introduced “tight monetary controls” (ain’t that a great euphemism?) and made big cuts in public spending. We protested. Don’t look for confirmation or approbation from the majority, or from the popular media (see medialens). Act on heart (which isn’t to say pure emotion, or gut!). Heads are rubbish. Well..mine is. You’re doing fine. Keep it up. I’m there with you.

  2. That’s the problem with the news – events will always (to different degrees) go through a lens of subjectivity and bias. News for TV (and papers depending on the market of readers) will be dropped, filtered out and prioritised to fit the allotted time between the soaps, X-factor and the national lottery. For a more in-depth look there’s programmes like News Night, (we have to be thankful for such programs which are sorely lacking in the US, for example) etc. But how many of the population watch News Night? How many of the population would rather loose themselves in light family entertainment for the precious free time of an evening they have to spend with their family? Maybe, and I’m just speculating here, for some their lives are full of so much day-to-day hassle already that (even though ironically it’s the nation’s politics which directly effects that “day-to-day hassle” in their lives) they’d rather just “chill-out” and loose themselves in light entertainment after a hard day’s graft. I don’t know – It’s a tough nut to crack. It’s takes a lot of time to inform one’s self of all that’s going on in the nation’s politics. It’s a full time profession for some, whose job it is to condense it down into bite-sized chunks for others without the time and/or inclination to inform themselves on a more in-depth level, to digest.

    Conversely, the more I speculate over matters to reach answers, and try to keep a balanced, truthful view without falling into comfortable, ignorant bias, the more questions arise, and the further I get away from a solid “truth” I can hold on to as fact. There’s just a bewildering number of factors to take into account, and I’ve only so much time and brain power!

    But going back to the main point of the original post, these protests are big news and I’m surprised that there’s been little coverage. But to be honest, I’ve not been watching any news on TV recently, my main source of information has been the internet. So I’m only going on what you’ve told me in this blog post!

  3. Having said that, I know one thing, I don’t want a healthcare system like the US has got. But at the same time, I work for a private heathcare company and I do believe they deliver a far better service than the NHS does or can at the moment, but you need the money to go private. A lot of people who use our services are awarded compensation money from winning their cases, it’s the people who don’t can’t afford proper care that I worry about, who have no alternative than the NHS. The NHS system is severely lacking at the moment and I don’t believe (disabled) people who have no choice but to get help from the NHS get the level of service they need.

  4. Personally I believe a lot of these shows that compete for allotted screen time are there to distract the public from disturbing or inflammatory issues, to prevent unrest and thereby uphold the status quo. Aspirational television and the worship of celebrity creates a false sense of hope which placates those who would otherwise feel dis-empowered – they aren’t relaxing, they are drugging. The values these shows uphold are actively damaging to society.

    That there is a Tory bias within the BBC is obvious to me. I have often been compelled to turn off in disgust when, for example, Noam Chomsky has been quoted out of context in a blatant and haphazard attack on the left, and I know for a fact that the BBC has been ordered by the Conservative Party to refer to CUTS as the more palatable “Austerity Measures”.

    Historically speaking the Vietnam War was the first war to be reported (for a spell) truthfully, without government censorship, by reporters on the ground. The large scale unrest which ensued taught governments a valuable lesson. The “news” now, is an ongoing story designed to control people through fear, a sense of isolation from other people, but without ever promoting activism.

    They are indeed operating within a time-scale. However, dis-proportionate coverage was given to the Amanda Knox case, whilst in the background conservative party members were pushing through this Bill, in their sneaky, undemocratic way. This was no accident.

    I see no reason to thank Newsnight, which to my eyes suffers from exactly the same bias and manipulation as the 10 O’Clock news. You only have to seek out foreign news channels such as Russia Today, or Al Jazeera, to see how each agenda promotes it’s particular bias.

    As a final point, the Conservative Party has recently extended the period you must be employed for before you are allowed to take your employer to court for unfair dismissal to two years. They are also in the process of removing health and safety laws, what they call “Red Tape”. Both of these factors will ensure that the number of those whose successful tribunals afford them private healthcare will fall rapidly, making this an unprofitable system.

    On your comment aboutt the NHS being serverely lacking, may I also refer you to this article in the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/mar/19/nhs-andrew-lansley-healthcare-reform
    Our faith in the NHS has actually never been higher- though again this is hidden by the right-wing media . The NHS has saved the lives of my loved ones. The vast majority will not be able to afford private healthcare, and some over-stretched GPs are already referring patients to private providers. Even if we did not as you say end up with an ‘American style’ Healthcare system, basing healthcare on profit has already proved to be cataclysmically destructive- just look at the branding of drugs for profit- pricing developing countries out of the Aids drugs market, and even suing countries for attempting to produce generic drugs. Profit is, I believe, one of the most socially destructive forces around, as it puts greed before the good of the majority. To introduce this to our healthcare systems, and, I fear, eventually into our education systems, will bring suffering on an unprecedented scale.

    • Mary, do you really think behind trashy telly is a conspiratorial plot to distract the masses by the powers that be (who do you think wields the ultimate power? the corporations? the bankers?) I agree that it does “drug”, distract and spread negative values which are damaging society, but I have a hard time swallowing that it’s part of a grand over-arching master plan. Matt.

    • BTW – That Guardian article is worrying. If it is true that the conservative government is covering-up statistics to manipulate the public opinion (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to be fair) on the cuts that’s reason enough for an outcry.

    • Further to what I was saying about the company I work for (in reply to mick’s comment below), in the initial interview I had to get my job (I had 5 in total) they showed me a power point presentation detailing the company’s aims. Which were in a nutshell to eventually lead their clients to full independence (or as much independence as poss), a situation were they no longer needed care. Upholding patient’s dignity was another major priority. Does this sound like a greedy company intent only on profit? The NHS on the other hand is often only able to provide the minimal amount of care in (disability care) cases, and their staff are stretched to breaking point. I can confirm this from experience and from what some of my friends say who work in care and support for the NHS. All I’m saying is that matters are rarely black & white. Again, I’m playing devil’s advocate here.

      What I am saying also in this, is that cuts to the NHS will only make matters worse than they are. It’s crazy that our national healthcare system has to suffer cuts caused by greed and selfishness. Matt.

      PS, thought this was very apt:

  5. We should be going the other way.

    Of course private healthcare can (in some cases) provide a better a service. It is better funded.

    If all those who work in the private sector, all those resources and all that capital was ploughed into the NHS, it would provide the best healthcare in the world, to all (regardless of means), for free.

    • I agree, the Nation Heath Service should be improved, not scrapped. But where’s the money needed going to come from? Ploughing money from the private sector into the NHS isn’t really the answer is it? Where’s that money come from in the first place? – customers’ pockets. To sustain that initial improvement you’d have to employ the same system as the private sector does – charging for healthcare (which is really what the NHS does via taxes). I’m no budget expert, but I suspect taxes would have to be increased to improve the NHS. Or money would have to be taken away from another sector. I don’t know. I’m just playing devils advocate here, I am on your side. The whole system’s/society’s majorly floored and we’re trying to come-up with a solution using this shitty system which needs to change from the ground up. The roots of social/political/economic decay are many and run deep.

      The healthcare company I work for started as a very small operation by a couple who had a passion for providing a high level of care (for personal reasons), they have a personal interest in this, it’s not about profit for them, profit for them is a result of providing a high level of care and that profit enables their company to grow, sustain and expand that level of care. It grew from word of mouth, not big strategy or marketing, they don’t even have a website still. Here’s an example of the type of person who runs the company: On my week of training the company provided a big spread for lunch every day, a cheerful man would come in after lunch and tidy-up the mess and scraps each day smiling and joking as he did so, he was a very approachable and down-to-earth man. I found out later that he was the managing director of the company. My point is that it’s easy to dehumanise corporations and the people running them and turn them into the faceless enemy, we shouldn’t generalise and say they are all greedy suits only out for selfish profit at the expense of the little person. Again, I’m just playing devils advocate here. Things are never as simple as being inherently good or inherently bad/evil. As you know, life is much more fine and complex than that.

      The main issue for me though is equality. The level of Heathcare one receives should not depend on one’s bank balance. The poorest amongst us should receive the same high level of care as the richest.

      • Matt btw, as i’m sure you can figure out!

  6. It’s up to the Lords now…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/blog/2011/oct/11/lords-debates-nhs-reforms-live

  7. Firstly, whilst large corporations have control over any media (see Rupert Murdoch) there IS an agenda, there IS a direction, and yes, I do believe that TV, specifically the news, is carefully constructed to instil fear and to distract. You only have to compare notes on the various stations and their various monetary/political forces (from Fox News to Russia Today) to begin to dissect these agendas.

    In answer to your next post- of course the conservative party is attempting to hoodwink the public into aiding privatisation of our national health service- they get massive donations from such services http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/2011/01/19/nhs-reform-leaves-tory-backers-with-links-to-private-healthcare-firms-set-for-bonanza-115875-22859373/. whilst political parties accept donations from corporations, it is clear they are not working democratically.

    I am well aware that if I were a rich woman, I could rock up to Bupa tomorrow and get my foot fixed. I am not saying that private healthcare companies do not care for peoples health- what I am saying is that profit is inherently without morals, and that when a healthcare system is for profit, it begins to work amorally- see the documentary ‘the corporation’. I will not repeat myself by going into how big business has infected and subverted the pharmaceutical trade again- but the fact that people are given unessential treatment and operations within the American healthcare system is well documented and well-satirised.

    You cite the one private healthcare system you work for as proof- while it is small, I am sure it has less of the functionary problems of detachment and immoral profit-seeking that big healthcare companies suffer from- and it will not be one of those healthcare companies that has donated to the Torys in an effort to promote their cause… but still- the sad truth of the matter is, that your company has an infinite amount of handicapped people to profit from. Maybe you do work towards re-rehabilitation- but there will always be more disabled people to take their place, and if your statistics are good, more customers are attracted. It is a business, and I refuse to believe that any business is making ALL decisions altruistically. Somewhere, eventually, corners will be cut, people will be over-charged. Sorry, but where there is profit, people are never consistently put first.

    As to where the money is to come from for improvements? well, I am a socialist, so I advocate the redistribution of wealth in an entirely egalitarian manner. But until our over-stretched resources promote the long awaited paradigm-shift? I really feel like I am going over old ground here- but tax the absolute BUGGERY out of banks, corporations and millionaires in general, Nobody ‘deserves’ fleets of cars, massive houses, islands in hot places, bloody 500-pound handbags, whilst our elderly and disabled suffer. And while I- having worked so hard to get fit, cannot walk, swim, run, or be healthy because a stretched NHS wont fix my foot 😦

    There are several issues with this new bill beyond the problems of morality within a profit-based system. The idea that the secretary of state will no longer be responsible for the system as a whole is extremely worrying, less accountability, and I am sure under the tories other current hobby-horse, the abolition of the bill of human rights, less people will have a legal right to complain when they are priced out or post-coded out of the right to health. As I have said before, when the BMA and now 1000 high-level doctors from across the country believe that the changes will destroy the system, we must worry, we must fight for this most wonderful of British institutions. Even the Telegraph has periodically reported against the bill. It will hurt our system, that is the bottom line. And maybe sometimes the care we poor can afford is basic- but in many apparently civilised countries basic care is unaffordable. I don’t think there should be ANY private healthcare in this country. One reason my surgeon has been so reluctant to operate on me or even refer me elsewhere? He mainly takes private patients. Pump those resources into equal, free, high-quality healthcare for all. The money is there. It is just hoarded by the top 2% of this country. And whilst your at it, get all that stolen art and sculpture out of Buckingham palace, give it back to the people and the ‘colonies’ that disgraceful family stole it from, and build a new hospital there. Call me a dreamer, but when the rape of the planet eventually causes mass starvation and thirst, I think it is probably more likely it will be burnt to the ground. A bit of a waste, that…

  8. Buckingham Palace Hospital has a certain ring to it!

  9. *to clarify, my point was that if these shows are even allowed to ‘compete’ with the allotted news time, they are by their very nature distraction, and not that they were specifically designed to brainwash us. Having said that, given product placement and the promotion of consumerism- I do think they do this to some extent. Aspirational programming is all about buying junk, and this makes big money, and rapes the planet. Maybe not as sinister as you interpreted my veiws, but sinister in my book.

  10. forgive me if I am wrong, but surely the recent abuse cases towards residential vulnerable adults as highlighted by that grim bbc documentary, were in a privately run home which the nhs outsourced patients to?

    • I agree with you Mary.

      • … Of course I do, you know that.


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