Take up your placard and march…

Posted: December 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

…at least that’s what I thought you did.

 

I thought that marching, was a long-established custom integral to a democratic society.  You only get to vote now and again but in between you can make your voice heard and your presence felt by marching through town, waving home made banners and chanting.  Then gathering at some central or politically important point to listen to speakers.

Ok, I did sort of realise that in an age of paranoia and surveillance, where spontaneity is suspicious and disagreement frowned upon, there was probably a form to fill in.  After all, whatever you want to do there is always a form to fill in.  I assumed that on top of that, someone nominally ‘in charge’ would have to telephone the police and do them the courtesy of informing them what our friends had planned and where and when we planned to do it.

I had expected problems.  Would I be able to march the whole route?  How long would I have to stand still and how many pain killers would I need to take/have with me?  What would be the best and least physically stressful way for me to carry a placard?  What should I write on it?

I had not expected to find it impossible to organise a march in my home city.  I had imagined the streets ringing to cries of “not one job lost, not one penny cut” accompanying the traditional sounds of Christmas shoppers.

But it was not to be.  Or at least not quite in the way I had envisaged.

On Saturday, December 4th, North Staffs Against the Cuts has organised a demonstration in Hanley to voice the legitimate concerns of Stoke-on-Trent’s citizens and to join their voices to those raised in protest throughout the UK.

But we will not be marching.

Ours will be a static demonstration.  In a car park.  To the side of the Town Hall, opposite the bus station and confined to the hours of 10.30 to 12pm.

Several weeks ago the local police were approached and informed of our intention to march and the preferred route we wished to take.  What followed has all the hallmarks of a slightly sinister comedy sketch. They didn’t like our first choice and suggested an alternative route.  We thought about it, discussed it and agreed that yes, the alternative was satisfactory. Except that now it no longer was.

Acceptable.

To the police.

Who had suggested it in the first place…

eh???

Apparently there were now worries about potential disorder (where did that come from?) and that we might disturb the Christmas shoppers.  Well be can’t have the meaning of Christmas (profit) disturbed now, can we?

From this point on, any route we suggested was met with objections. Organising the demo came to resemble one of those platform games where obstacles are constantly thrown up at random intervals and the player has to quickly circumnavigate them to reach her goal.

We would need a road closure order at a cost of £1,100 pounds and anyway the deadline for applying for one was already past, even if we had had a spare thousand plus quid in our collection bucket.

Then there was public liability insurance at an unspecified cost and don’t forget the barriers to contain the demonstrators and for which we would also be charged.

Thoughts turned to a static protest.  Surely that would raise less objections?

I am ever the opotamist.

We could have our demo, in the place of our choosing as long as no more than 300 people attended.  Now I’m not suggesting that more or less than 300 would turn up. I don’t know.  I’m just puzzled as to how one limits the number of people at a public demonstration?  Set up turnstyles to count the participants?  Make it a ticket only event? Hire bouncers to keep out anyone over the proposed number?

Oh and of course there would be a charge for barriers.

The only place where they would agree to us gathering without charge at this point was a local church yard!

Eventually, a venue for a static protest was agreed. We were home and dry, there couldn’t be anymore obstacles waiting to fly in from the wings.

Could there?

Well, yes, of course there could be….

…timing.

Now the threat of a section 14 notice was being waved about if we didn’t either agree to finish our demonstration by 10.30 am or not start until after 3.30pm!

Or we could of course move the venue yet again to a more out of the way part of town.

Negotiations continued.

1.30 to 3.30 – strictly enforced and numbers no more than 200.

Talk of memorandums of understanding (I still don’t understand any of it).

Alternative venues where we would have no charges, no restrictions and no one would know we were there!

Finally

A compromise.

Lichfield Street car park.

Which is where we will be. Tucked away to the left of the Town Hall. Opposite the Bus Station.

On Saturday the 4th.

With our placards and voices exercising our democratic right to protest…

NORTH STAFFS AGAINST THE CUTS

Join us!

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. andy says:

    Just go marching anyway, I doubt there’ll be too many cops and once you’re on the move there’s little they can do 😉

  2. Michelle says:

    It will be a interesting day, I think 🙂

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