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Live Blog: The People’s Assembly 2013.

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Student journalist Neil Harrison reports live for Humanity Hallows from today’s massive People’s Assembly meeting in Westminster. For updates follow us on Twitter- @humanityhallows or like us on Facebook- Humanity Hallows Magazine.

9am: Arrived at Westminster Central Hall, lots of people already gathering around the entrance and the specially erected marquees. Over 4000 people are expected to attend a day of political debate and action, and with speakers including heavyweights from the worlds of politics, comedy, film, trade unionism and academia they should not be disappointed.

Video: Chavs author and Independent columnist Owen Jones speaks to Humanity Hallows ahead of his speech at the opening session of The People’s Assembly.

10am: The main hall is swiftly filling up, the speakers are taking their seats ahead of the opening plenary.


Owen Jones takes to the stage:

“Friends, enough is enough- we’re here to fight back.”
“It doesn’t matter how angry people get, how scared people get, without hope, people don’t fight back.”
“We are simply a means of bringing everyone together, we’ll have protests…we will organise strikes…we need to tap into this country’s tradition of civil disobedience.”
“Too many people rely on us winning…we stand together we fight together, we will win together.”

10.50 am: Comedian Mark Steel brought the opening speeches to a close with huge laughs from the audience and his message to them: “We are not helpless.”

He hailed recent protests to protect public services and the “brilliant, talented people on our side.”

Adding his disdain for the modern political zeitgeist of austerity he ended his speech by claiming: “People will look back at the age of austerity and think ‘What the bloody hell were we doing?

Video: Caroline Lucas MP of The Green Party emphasised the importance of tackling the  environmental crisis alongside the economic one.

She continued:

“Tackling the economic crisis and the environmental crisis have to be done together. The good news is the green economy is far more labour intensive than the fossil fuel economy it replaces…investing in the green economy isn’t a distraction from the financial crisis- it’s the direct route out of it.”
“George Osbourne says ‘We are not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business,’ which really does beg the question many of us have been asking- ‘Which planet is George Osbourne on?'”
Caroline Lucas ended her speech by calling for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution,’ and announcing that next week she will be introducing a private members bill to the House of Commons calling for re-nationalisation of the railways.

Keep following @humanityhallows on Twitter for lots more to come throughout the afternoon from The People’s Assembly.

1.15pm: Frontbench Labour MP for Hackney, Diane Abbot speaks about the links between economic hardship and racism:

Anti-immigration racism is used as a means of dividing and weakening the working class.
“Nothing is gained by conceding to myths about immigration.”
“Immigrants do not cause low wages…neo-liberalism causes low wages.”
“We as people…have to stand up for a united movement of working people against the anti-immigration rhetoric which is so current today.”

Video: Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone gives his thoughts on economics, industry and austerity.

Update:

With multiple forums operating in various rooms and marquees in and around Westminster Central Hall, discussion topics have been extremely broad ranging- which has been one of the stated aims of the organisers of today’s event.

Protesters against benefits cuts and the bedroom tax used the opportunity to voice concerns regarding police handling of peaceful protests.

Representatives of UK Uncut announced plans to occupy high street banks throughout July to highlight the growing food bank crisis – “Food Banks- In Banks.” Keep a look out for this on your local high street.

Local Muslim leaders expressed their concerns about the violent reactions to Drummer Lee Rigby’s Murder in Woolwich. They used the event to highlight the beneficial work done by Mosques in the community and called upon the government to work harder to bring people of differing faiths and ethnicities together, and to condemn racial hatred and violence with greater force.

Video: Political activist, broadcaster and writer John Rees is a national officer of the Stop the War Coalition and founding member of Counterfire. Here he speaks to Humanity Hallows, delivering a warning to the government and discussing the success of The People’s Assembly.

3.45pm: The main hall is filling up again for the closing session as the audience prepares to hear from John Rees, Len McClusky, Francesca Martinez, Mark Serwotka and Tony Benn among others.

Video: President of Stop The War Coalition and giant of British politics Tony Benn received a massive standing ovation as he took to the stage.

Unite General Secretary Len McClusky:

We are Speaking for the millions of people worried about losing their homes, jobs and dignity.

There were loud calls of “Strike” during Mr McClusky’s speech.

He responds by calling for “Mass industrial strike action.”

National Union of Teachers General Secretary, Christine Blower took to the platform, calling for reforms within the schooling system which would benefit all children including “universal free school meals, lunch and breakfast.”   

 

John Rees did not disappoint, delivering an impassioned speech- to rapturous applause. He addressed, in his own words, “Tory Vermin,” at points raging:

“We are only interested in no cuts at all to the welfare state. We will not be divided. We are united and we are going to stay united.”

“We are going to need to break this government. Strikes, civil disobedience we are going to hit them with everything we have.”

Rees called for the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester to be disrupted by civil disobedience saying: “Deport them back to Mayfair.”

He ended his speech with a call for a “virtuous cycle of protest” to begin.

Writer and Comedienne Francesca Martinez spoke about the dissemination of wealth in society and, as she views it, the unfair treatment of vulnerable groups:

“There is a sense that (public) money is (the government’s) money. It is our money!”
“I think we need to see through the lies of the corporate led government and media.”
“The demonisation of vulnerable groups in society is disgusting.” 
“I think politics is life. It is your life and you are involved.”
Following her speech Miss Martinez received a huge standing ovation.

General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Mark Serwotka delivered a tub-thumping diatribe to round off proceedings and called for unified strike action and protest from each of the organisations present.

It was only left for National Union of Students Vice President Vicki Baars to thank the crowd and dismiss the assembly.

If, as numerous speakers throughout the day implored of the crowds, the individuals and groups in attendance are able to “Educate, Agitate and Organise,” then British society may be feeling the reverberations  of The People’s Assembly for some time to come. Watch this space…

For more information please visit thepeoplesassembly.org.uk

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aAh!

aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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