On 19th February a thousands of people joined the second big march organised by Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance. Bristol AF joined unions, community groups and individuals in marching on Bristol Council the Saturday before the council set its budget.
The IWW song-sheet provided some good fun, as the march peacefully made its way from Castle Park to the Council House. Outside the council house speakers including a teenage school student talked about the effects the cuts were having on working class people.
After the speeches about 60 people and a sound system and moved park towards the centre of town. Loudly marching through the Galleries mall and out through Boots, recently reported to have moved their address to Switzerland to avoid tax. Next door to Boots was Barclays where security staff quickly closed their doors for the rest of the day. The group moved off with more music and chanting and into Natwest (owned by RBS). After a brief occupation of Natwest and the Lloyds opposite closing its doors the group next headed to Cabot Circus, Bristol’s massive temple to consumerism, where HSBC was occupied and Vodafone closed. Next the crowd in good spirits and still dancing moved towards Topshop, where there was already a massive security presence. After a party in Halifax, which attracted the support and laughter of onlookers and passersby and a brief breakdown of the the sound system on the ramp of HMV, the police decided to make their move inside BHS (another Arcadia group business). The police attacked protesters causing scuffles and chaos before one person was arrested. A stand-off ensued when a police van was prevented from reaching the back of the store and for a while all exits were covered preventing police from removing the arrestee. Eventually the police where able to bundle their prisoner into a van which sped off.
With every bank, both Vodafones and BHS all closed for the day the group then marched to Trinity Road police station. Upon arrival it was discovered the prisoner had been taken to a station out of town. Riot cops had amassed so the group started to head off. As they did however, the police snatched someone from the rear of the crowd. Everyone turned back to show their anger at the cops, who then proceeded to try to snatch more individuals creating scuffling which resulted in more arrests and one person being beaten quite badly by the police. After the sound system was vandalised by the cops and more people fearing they were next on the police snatch list, the protest dissipated. Many returned later to wait outside for the release of those arrested. There were 7 arrests in total, the last person not being released until 3.30am Sunday morning.
The council meeting on the following Tuesday was repeatedly interrupted until the public gallery was cleared and the meeting effectively became private. One person was arrested for disrupting a public meeting, a law brought in to combat the suffragettes.
The council passed their budget but the fight goes on!