In the end around five thousand people turned out for the main demonstration on the Saturday. A good turn-out in spite of the predicted figures and generally a good atmosphere with groups from all areas of life that are currently being affected by the Con-Dem agenda. The speeches were, predictably, a staid affair, dominated by trade union bureaucrats and self-appointed leaders of the movement. Thankfully the vibrancy of those marching injected a bit of life into the event in spite of this. The anarchists formed their own bloc with individuals from Sheffield Student Occupation and members of People and Planet (who had also brought a bicycle powered sound system to provide a soundtrack to our march). The “friendly face” of S. Yorkshire police was on show as well with liaison officers deployed throughout the crowd, not evidence gathering teams at all honest!, there to assure us that we “weren’t gunna be caged” in front of City Hall and honestly inquire where we were from, who we were associated with and what our plans were. Direct action had been promised by some Trotskyist groups for in front of City Hall, unsurprisingly they failed to deliver (a single student from Nottingham let off a flare and was arrested scaling the fence). Clearly selling papers was a far better use of their time than disrupting the conference. Aware that this would be the case, the libertarian bloc opted to take matters into their own hands, decided not to enter the “freedom cage” in front of City Hall and split from the main demonstration for a direct-action-tour of Fargate.
Tax dodgers and bail-out banks were targeted in a series of “bail-ins” made all the more entertaining by the sound system in tow. A number of locals even joined the festivities and people were generally very supportive. One activist reported a local say, upon seeing fifty masked troublemakers charge down Fargate, “This is what they ALL should be doing!”. Despite the size of the operation S. Yorkshire police were totally unprepared and Topshop, Vodafone, Natwest and Boots were all shut down. When the response finally did come it was predictably violent. The successful use of de-arrest and anti-kettling tactics meant no one was arrested. Unfortunately a small group did get kettled on Fargate for a short period of time. Police were indiscriminate in detaining people trapping a few local people who weren’t part of the protest but just happened to look alternative. A fifteen year-old girl was punched in the face at this point and a mother pushed to the floor while with her kid. Locals were on the case though and thanks to a load of hassle the cops quickly realised they would have to release the kettle, marching them back to the cage in front of City Hall only for everyone to quickly disperse. Overall it was a successful day made all the more successful by no arrests.
These direct action tactics need to be applied on a mass scale if we are to be successful in beating the wave of cuts and austerity measures. Direct action really does get the goods! We showed what we could do with just fifty people. Imagine what could be done if we had just three or four times that willing to take things into their own hands. This means the end of A-B marches, no more leaders and bureaucrats bleating on about writing to your MPs. It means real action led by those affected pushing the ONLY real alternative – anti-capitalism.