Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Wood Green Civic Centre Occupied by Angry Crowd



Several hundred people protested outside the budget meeting at Wood Green civic centre on 25 February. The building was occupied, and more than twenty people managed to break through a small police line and enter the council chamber, where they delayed the council meeting by nearly two hours. Two were arrested after 3 van loads of TSG officers were called in to clear the building. A solidarity vigil was quickly organised outside Hornsey police station where they were taken.

Haringey councillors were due to pass cuts of £87 million over three years, with more than a thousand jobs to go and three quarters of the youth service being destroyed. The cuts will also hit the elderly with care homes and drop-in centres being targeted.

After some speeches from local activist organisations and an open mic, the crowd moved into the building, and at first queued politely for the public gallery, but soon decided to attempt an occupation of the council chamber.

A Haringey Green party member who took part in the occupation, gives here her account of what happened next. “Those of us who weren't occupying the chambers ran off to break into the secret council meeting that was being protected by the police, someone smashed a fire-alarm so that the swipe-card doors to the canteen where the council were would open! Needless to say it was a bit chaotic we were mostly trying not to get bundled by the police and shouting ‘Whose Town Hall, Our Town Hall’ at the top of our voices!”

“It was good to exercise some civil disobedience in the face of these outrageous cuts - at least better than being on yet another demonstration where you don't make any sort of impression. Still - I would also have been happier to know that there had at least been some engagement of potentially anti-cuts councillors (if indeed there are any), and to know that there was some comprehensive campaign - I've been randomly attending a few local demos over the last few months and always left thinking - is there any other campaigning? What is the strategy here?”

Meanwhile, in the chamber, the activists were told by a councillor that they must leave the building or that he would ask the police to arrest them. After some discussion, a consensus was reached, and while people on the ground floor were being forcibly removed from the building by TSG officers, the occupiers and the people in the public gallery walked out together as a group. Noisy protesting continued outside the chamber, and then a group headed down to Hornsey police station for a solidarity protest over the two who were arrested.

Almost immediately, the councillors, who it seems had been waiting outside the back of the building, then poured in through the back door and up to the council chamber. There, starting their meeting two hours later than scheduled, they proceeded to vote through the devastating cuts.

Last year Haringey’s director of children and young people’s service received a salary and pension contribution of £282,670. Tonight, he voted to pass a 75% cut to Haringey’s youth service.

Bulk of the report from Indymedia. More on the demonstration and other resistance to the cuts can be found on the Haringey Alliance for Public Services website.

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

As much as I support your noble stance on the budget, you will not get the movement anywhere by breaking though police lines. Let's see how the police retaliate in their security measures in Hackney this evening. The more trouble there is, the more excuse they have to restrict our freedoms.

Mike Shaughnessy said...

Hmm, the local press ran the story as 'hooligans etc', so I understand what you are saying. But, what are people meant to do? At least this highlights just how angry people are about these cuts. I do hope we have massive demo on the TUC march 26th March, with some direct action surrounding it. If nothing else it should embolden the union leaders to take this further.