So, on a bright and fresh Saturday morning my medic buddy and I left my house in Oxford to catch a train to London. Minutes later, I noticed I'd forgotten my medic kit. Not a great start!
We arrived at the feeder march at around 10.30. I was pretty impressed at the turn out - great to see such a number of red & black flags. The feeder march set off at an impressive place, only to come to a grinding halt when it met the main march. Having shuffled forward about 20 yards in an hour, we thought 'bugger this' and left the march to see what was happening elsewhere in London. We headed up to Oxford Street, where UK Uncut had called for occupations of tax dodging shops - Vodafone, Boots, Top Shop, et al.
We met up with a very impressive black bloc on Oxford Street, so we tagged along with them for a bit. Given the huge number of tax dodgers on Oxford Street, in was hard to predict what would happen. However, I do remember thinking it's the first time I've seen a black block pay no attention to one of the iconic symbols of global capitalism - McDonald's. I can only assume they pay their taxes!
One of the great things about this black bloc march was that there seemed to be no planned route. This made it hard for the cops to control the forward advance - as nobody really knew which way was forward. As we strolled along with the bloc, I remember seeing someone grab a trade waste bin (the type on wheels), saying 'this will be useful for something.'
For a little while, I wondered what it would be useful for. My question was answered a few minutes later as an HSBC was trashed. Here's a video (it's on YouTube, so they will log your IP address) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUYrIr_l8UA (approx 45 seconds in). It didn't take the riot cops long to appear with batons a swinging, so me and my buddy hung around to see if anybody would need out tender loving medic care. Fortunately nobody did.
By this time, we'd lost contact with the main black bloc, so we decided to wander up to Oxford Circus where, at 3.30, UK Uncut were planning an occupation of an undisclosed target.
After a little bit of 'follow the leader' we ended up outside Fortum & Masons, when a load of people stormed through the front door - this was the target. There was a large part of me that want to join the occupation, but after a quick conflab with my medic buddy we decided that the largest risk to somebody's health was the police - who were all outside. So outside we stayed.
Having been on our feet for a long time, we decided to pop down a side road for a little snack to keep the energy up. This was exactly when the cops decided to block the road off - and we were on the wrong side! (Strange thing with being a medic is that you probably want to be inside the kettle - that's were people will need help.)
So, after a bit of hanging around, we decided there was no more for us to do as medics, that out colds were getting the better of us, and it was time to head home.
I think it's really important that the main TUC march took place - 500,000 showing opposition to the cuts is important. But ...
Marching is not sufficient by itself. I do not believe that the government does not know what it is doing, or that a march (or many marches) will make it change tack. The government is using a shock doctrine tactic - bringing in harsh reforms very quickly - so that the normal democratic channels will not work (if they ever do anyway).
A mass campaign of civil disobedience is the only thing that has a chance of stopping the cuts. Those of us that are opposed to the cuts must recognise this and take appropriate action - it's not about marching or occupations or property damage. It's marching and occupations and property damage. And it's about rejecting the labels of 'good protester' versus 'bad protester.' We must all act together and not let those in power divide us (or divide ourselves).
And yes, I do mean property damage. It is a non-violent tactic (nobody gets hurt), that is a justifiable and proportionate act of self-defence against the state and it's corporate allies whose reforms will cause actual injury to people. The 'commit a crime to prevent a larger crime' tactic is established in law, as Trident Ploughshares activists at RAF Fairford found out. It is a good tactic, and we need to use it.