In just a few weeks the People’s Assembly against Austerity gathers for its first national demonstration in London. David Peel offers some practical tips for building the protest
The 21 June will be a message to the Coalition Government that its worst fears have been realised the British people are moving against its austerity policies. From every corner of Britain, coaches carrying People’s Assembly activists will head to the capital to join thousands of teachers who are in the same struggle against the Coalition and austerity.
Between now and June 21, across Britain, activists will be building popular support and participation for that march against austerity. Here’s a ten-point plan – not in any priority order - for building for that demonstration, starting now. It is far from comprehensive - each Assembly group will have its own ideas, contacts and ways of doing things - but it’s a start.
- Tell your local media – you should be issuing news releases every week about your activities. In every release, flag the national demo of the People’s Assembly on June 21. Call it No More Austerity: Demand the Alternative, give it definition, call yourselves the official opposition to austerity in your area. Don’t just drop releases into media news desks or blitz email inboxes - TALK to journalists. Give the People’s Assembly a human face. And don’t forget to put details of your public meetings and events in the Morning Star and in local events guides and magazines which are free and left in pubs and bars.
Tell local people – use every weekend in the run up to the demo to hand out flyers. Be a high profile presence in your town or city centre. Talk to people about austerity. Show them they can fight back, ask them to join you - you are not a political party. Ask them to contribute funding if they can – use your judgement, be sensible and sensitive. Be bright, be colourful, visible and fun….but be serious. Remember you are fighting to end the austerity and to bring the Coalition down.
Speaking of flyers – produce your own. Use your funding – or find some emergency funding from a trade union or your own activists – and produce a colourful leaflet. On the front put the march details. On the back, explain what the People’s Assembly movement is and urge people to be part of it. Email your electronic version to all your trade union and protest/campaign contacts. Get permission to leave your leaflets in pubs and cafes, restaurants and bars. Hand them out at your weekly city or town centre stalls. Even walk estates and push them through letter boxes. It’s hard, but you have to get the message out.
Tell the People’s Assembly national office - They have leaflets too, and placards. Get them to send you 200 No cuts/Save our NHS round placard tops - then take a couple of hours to staple them to sticks – you can find sticks at any wood merchants in a big discarded pile ready to be burnt. You can never have too many placards. And if you haven’t got a banner, get one made pronto – contact local printers, and keep those contacts. Build relationships.
Talk to coach and train companies – and be ambitious. In Norfolk we bring three coaches of 55 people each and we always try and strike a deal. Make sure the coach has toilets – even if it costs a bit more. Be open with the people you are talking to about what you want it for and what you are doing. They might be sympathetic! Consider charging a small fee in advance for the coach to win commitment. A free coach is great, but it’s too easy to roll over and grab more sleep rather than get up for a free coach at 6 on a windy, rainy demo day morning.
Talk to your trades council and your local trade union branches who back the Assembly. Urge them to email their members about June 21. A chat with a UNISON hospital rep plugs you into hundreds of nurses and health service workers with the demo details. Draft the email on their behalf as a message from your People’s Assembly. The unions back the Assembly anti austerity fight, they should be supporting you, they will help.
Use your social media - You should already have a Facebook page and a website, a twitter feed and more. Post, post and post again, create an event and invite your friends. Tweet every week. Keep everyone updated with details, and post every detail of what you are planning on your page. Email the FB page link to journalists so they can keep updated too. Get your plans on the national People’s Assembly website – that is what it is there for! Above all, build momentum and excitement about June 21.
Call public meetings to discuss June 21, and smaller organising meetings every fortnight to plan for June 21. The public meetings don’t have to be solely about June 21 – they could be about the bedroom tax or an issue close to local people’s concerns – a hospital closure etc. But every time you have any meeting, or every time you attend anything, a picket line, another organisation’s meeting, a council debate, a TV or radio interview take your leaflets with you, hand them out and shamelessly promote June 21. Austerity is killing people – this is urgent, that is reason enough.
As you get closer to the day, intensify your campaigning. Stand outside your hospital handing out leaflets, leaflet council workers, move your campaigning to places of work like local factories, call centres, rail and bus stations and so on. Make sure all your media has details of your coaches, times and the places where you are leaving from. Make sure all the last small logistical details are tied down, the coaches are actually booked and know where they have to be - don’t just expect them to turn up. Have your list of those who are coming, and their contact mobiles so you can check if they are late or not coming.
On the day, be at the coach stop early. Have your travellers’ names and mobile numbers to hand. Give it 15 minutes before you set off just in case there are stragglers. On the way down, talk to people, introduce yourselves and make sure everyone has the information they need about the return journey. Use the coach PA to give out those details as you approach London. Make sure the drivers have your number and you both know exactly where the coach is going to be when the demo ends. Make sure everyone on the coach knows when it is leaving. When you leave, leave with everyone you brought down unless someone has specifically let you know they are not coming back. Wait for people – now is the time you will be glad you got their mobile numbers. Oh yes…and don’t forget - have fun!
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