On an evening with many other events happening in and around York it was good to see a healthy turnout for a public meeting at the Crescent Community Venue organised by York People’s Assembly and Supported by York and District Trades Council on 13th September 2017 was entitled “Justice for Grenfell, end austerity, scrap the 1% pay cap” allowing a range of speakers to provide background to why the governments neo-liberal economic policies and especially its austerity program was ultimately to blame for the Grenfell Towers disaster on the 14th June 2017. A range of stalls were also present promoting defence of the NHS, Unite Against Racism and the campaign against fracking.
The first to speak was Kim Hunter from Frack Free Scarborough who spoke of the solidarity across the movement. Next was James Cussens from York and District Trades Council with a similar message of solidarity against austerity. David Lewis from York Unison followed with a story of the origins of neo-liberalism and austerity in the UK, including the Hayek-Thatcher meeting of 1975. Councillor Danny Myers continued the overarching theme of the need to work together against global capitalism.
Next in line was Annie, one of the Durham Teaching Assistants who had spoken at a previous meeting and whilst not bearing a message of complete victory brought one of the benefits of solidarity and support that they were able to demonstrate. They’re in the third year of a dispute that has grown from one woman on Facebook to having 1500 (out of a total of 2500) Teaching Assistants in Durham standing up boldly against the County Council and others. Annie was supported by two other colleagues, and it was great to see and hear them again.
“Enough is enough” was the message Judy Bolton brought from Justice4Grenfell. With friends and family who had died in the disaster she described the failings behind the catastrophic loss of life on the 14th June and after. Since the event it is estimated by the campaign that around 250 people lost their lives, whilst the authorities have only declared 85 “viable human remains”, and that only 16 people have been re-homed. Judy’s talk was a moving description of the horrors of the night and days following, along with a list of cuts, cock-ups and criminal negligence that cost so many lives.
Judy received a standing ovation at the end of the talk but continued to answer more questions regarding the event and campaign. She will be attending Manchester on the 1st October with the London Fire Brigade Union. So book your ticket for the coach and join her.
Her call was “enough is enough”.
In one of the largest demonstrations the city has seen for years, over a thousand people marched the streets yesterday, calling for refugees to be made welcome in York.
Starting in torrential rain at St. Helen’s Square and finishing with blue skies at the Minster, the weather on the day was perhaps symbolic of the way attitudes have changed in Britain towards the humanitarian crisis. In the past weeks, some of the world’s most desperate people have faced an onslaught of abuse and degradation from our media and government. Yesterday marked the beginning of a compassionate approach to the issue from ordinary people, coinciding with events across the country.
On Thursday 16th July, approximately 60 people gathered in St Helen’s Square to protest about the anti-homeless bars installed on benches on Rougier Street, prior to Richard Bridge handing in a petition of 5,400 signatures calling for their removal. People turned up with sleeping bags and blankets and at 5.30 and took over St Helen’s Square to stage a “sleep-in” and raise awareness of the issues faced by the rising number of homeless people in York.
Members of Unison were also protesting about cuts to Facility Time for union representatives working for the council, and once the sleep-in was over, York People’s Assembly joined this protest to show solidarity. Continue reading
Citizens of York beat back the Grim Reaper as he attacked the NHS. To mark the NHS’ 67th birthday, Defend Our NHS York staged a dramatic scene in the city centre, complete with patient in bed, whilst local MP Rachael Maskell looked on. There were leaflets for the public to take away. The Grim Reaper turned out to be none other than Jeremy Hunt!
A crowd gathered outside York Art Gallery on Wednesday, 1st July, to mark one month until entry charges are introduced, and to welcome a striker from the National Gallery. PCS members at the gallery in London want to prevent privatisation of their jobs. The strike, now in its 45th day, has already secured a living wage for all staff. A brilliant £350 was raised for strike funds during the visit.
Meanwhile, York has seen a string of Arts issues in recent months. The new Council leadership have cancelled funding for the Guildhall digital media centre and the grass-roots Arts Barge project. Add to this the decision to charge up to £7.50 for visits to the local art gallery, and it’s clear that arts are being restricted to the most well-off.
On Wednesday 27th May, the Queen will visit Parliament to announce Cameron’s plans for the year ahead. We’re expecting some surprises, but the picture is already bleak: cuts to budgets, cuts to rights, and big pay-offs to the richest 1%. So we want to offer an alternative, an Assembly Against Austerity of sorts, with ‘open megaphone’ and ideas board (Facebook event). Alongside a dozen other cities, lets get together and remind both government and media that only a third of voters want this government!