The protest on Monday night was already hundreds strong at the time of starting, people from all walks of life spilling into the road.
A good atmosphere prevailed, a strange sight as on the pedestrian islands people with banners waved to passing haulage vehicles and commuters.
Speeches from the local unions, the local disabled advocacy group, the parents and children’s groups, the police sharing banter as the councillors could be seen entering the back door.
A hundred of the crowd were invited to enter as the Council were to open, we piled in and saw before us a series of faces, some tense, some decidedly self-satisfied.
Business began at 7, opening remarks made by the leader of the Council, who earns twice as much as the Prime Minister according to reports, as he made his reasons for accepting the cuts clear, the heckling began.
Being present was something of an exhilarating experience, as councillors made comments, a few, initially called out.
The tension built as excuses given were enough to provoke the audience, the vast majority of whom were clearly of one mind, and disgusted by the Labour Council.
After a while, delegations were given only three minutes each to make their case before the Council.
Initially a school group, their teacher clearly furious with Lambeth Labour, adding ‘they are the future’!
Ellen Lebethe of the Pensioners’ Action Group spoke with both authority and passion, Lee Jasper made clear how the Councillors came into politics to help people, through principle, and now look at them.
Jon Rogers of Unison spoke, calling for the March 26th mobilisation to be attended by these Councillors, emphasising how devastating these cuts would be, on and on people emphasised the essential point that this was worse than what Thatcher threatened, AND it was a Labour group of career politicians who were carrying the out dirty work.
Ted Knight, former leader of the Council, after announcing that the protest outside had expanded massively enough to close down the main road through Brixton outside, to the awe of those present, stated categorically that these Councillors do have a choice as they profess not to, they have greater freedom from prosecution than those in the 80’s, no likelihood of being legally or financially pursued for representing what the community voted for them to do, to refuse the cuts.
Teacher, Sarah Tomlinson pointed out that the welfare state was built with a far larger deficit.
As each speaker spoke, a roar of applause drowned the leader out, comments freely given to him, no fear and instead an electric atmosphere of ferocious anger and energetic unity among the audience.
The Lib Dem and Tory councillors, only one each present, made a few comments and were hounded by the audience, passionately, reminding them of tax avoidance by the wealthiest and their complicity.
Kingsley Abrams, the lone Councillor to abide by his principles and refuse to vote for the budget, £90 million over four years, made a simple yet poignant statement, he condemned the council, telling them clearly that they have a responsibility to their voters, the community, and by choosing to verbally condemn the ideological cuts and yet to accept them, they were carrying out something that was wrong.
The cheer and support from behind him among the audience was huge, the Council leader responded by stating that his comments were ‘outrageous’ to which immediate cat calls and recriminations were made.
A chant of ‘apologise’ began.
The leader speedily proceeded to the vote, when declaring the proposals, asking the Council ‘Are all agreed’, as one the mass audience boomed ‘Not Agreed!’.
The vote ended in disarray, many started up to leave and chants of ‘Shame’ drowned the microphones out.
Some Councillors got into arguments with crowd members present, heated and chaotic scenes ended a night of incredible pressure on Lambeth Council.
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