A London People's Assembly activist on how to make June 20 a seismic event
Sure, people were down about the election result, but you'd be amazed at how building the End Austerity Now demo cut across that. Things started relatively modestly with 6 people out at a stall in Wood Green on Saturday morning, but after we decided to step things up and go for a street stall in Camden the following afternoon things really took off.
We had 15 volunteers turn out and stall had an almost magic effect, becoming the eye of a happy storm of political agitation. Shouts of 'London did not vote for austerity', slogans about the housing crisis and rocketing rents and in defence of immigration clearly hit a chord with passers by stopping for a group photo holding End Austerity Now posters.
It's an unusual sight seeing people queuing up to sign up to an organisation's mailing list, but that's what happened. We came across contacts from all over the country and put them in touch with the relevant People's Assembly groups. Our street stall became a hub of agitation and organisation. Also striking was that volunteers came along to help out after seeing posts on Facebook. The fact that we were doing something (and not just anything but building a mass demo) in the wake of the election defeat was motivating people.
Here's how we made as big an impact as possible. This can be replicated anywhere.
1Put out a call via Facebook, texts, email and phone calls with the time and location of our stalls
2Had some volunteers lined up in advance in case there was no take up from our call-out
3Set up a gazebo (optional) in a public area at the agreed time and place
4Put up a table (recommended!) with sign up sheets, posters, leaflets, badges and collection tins for people to donate - all our materials cost money to produce!
5Volunteers wore Peoples Assembly t-shirts to increase our visual presence
6Brought a megaphone (with fresh batteries!) and encouraged volunteers to make as much noise with it as possible, writing down some key slogans and stats to call out
7Made sure we had plenty of leaflets (we gave out thousands) and stickers. We also gave people leaflets to take away and hand out at work or on the bus
8Encouraged people who showed interest to sign up to our mailing list for future activity (people didn't need much encouraging)
9Put up posters and stickers in the surrounding area to increase our impact, and rattled collecting tins to make some noise
10Took photos and short videos of volunteers handing out leaflets and using the megaphone, asked people to pose with posters and tweeted and facebooked these out live with the hashtag #EndAusterityNow and #JuneDemo
We repeated this in Brick Lane this Sunday and had an even bigger response, with up to 30 volunteers. We had enough to send a troop of us marching up and down Brick Lane with a megaphone, dishing out leaflets. Other London stalls included 12 in Dalston, 10 at Crouch End and a stall in Camden and in Tower Hamlets at least 70 turned out to canvas for anti-austerity mayoral candidate Rabina Khan, injecting a positive pro-social agenda into the post election gloom.
With 60,000 already attending on Facebook and the incredible response to street activity the demo clearly has the capacity to galvanise (and, crucially, mobilise) anti-cuts opinion against the government. This requires us to get activity going in as many areas as possible and spread the word far and wide. To make the demo real in people's mind as a must-go event they need to have been handed a flyer, seen posts on social media and walked past a poster at least once. This will send a message out that whatever else you do, you must get yourself (and your friends and family) down to Bank Station at 12 noon on Saturday 20 June.
Dan is a writer, broadcaster and campaigner. His most recent documentary was The New Scramble For Africa and his documentaries have appeared regularly on the Islam Channel. He is an organiser for Counterfire and a regular contributor to Counterfire site.
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