I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the TUC rally in Hyde Park following the March for the Alternative on 26th March 2011.
This is what I said:
Until ten months ago I had no idea what it was like to have a Tory government. The time since then has surpassed all my worst fears. I have spent days, weeks and months in utter anger and despair at what is happening to my country. However, I am so happy this afternoon to see so many people who feel the same way. You don’t need me to tell you why we’re spending our Saturday out on the streets of London. We know why we’re here.
This government continues to pursue inhumane and brutal spending cuts to services in a way that will fundamentally dismantle our welfare state and change the nature of our country. We know the cuts will affect the already most vulnerable and marginalised the most. I want talk specifically about the impact that they will have on young black women. It’s difficult enough when you’re struggling against poverty, racism and sexism; sexism in the world at large, but also in your own family and community; against so-called ‘tradition,’ like forced marriage, the idea of ‘honour’ and practices such as female genital mutilation. Young black women struggle against ideas of what you can and cannot do and what you are and are not allowed to dream about when it comes to your future. How much more difficult will it be for us when they rip away some of the only support structures that we have and raise even more barriers in their place? The abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, the introduction of ever increasing tuition fees… How can we face some of the most vulnerable women and say that the state cannot help? How can we call ourselves a democratic society if vulnerable people are denied the opportunity to stand in the same dream as the powerful and privileged?
Mr. Cameron, you talk about the big society. This is code for sending us back to the Victorian era. Well I want to stay in the 21st century, and I think all of you here do too.
I don’t know what impact today will have, but I do know this. We should never believe that because mass movements have sometimes not succeeded, that this means that they have failed. We may be defeated in the short-term, but what we have done today and will continue to do after today will have long-term implications and long-term impact. David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and all the others should remember this.
History can frighten us, or history can beckon us. We owe it to future generations not to be afraid and shackled by history, but to create it. We are at a historic moment right now. Everything that we enjoy today, that we take for granted, was created by struggle, by people standing up and seeking a better way forward. It is now our turn to do the same and defend what is right.
Let’s go! Let’s become a mass peaceful civil disobedience movement. Let’s follow in the footsteps of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Let’s occupy banks, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square, as some are doing right now. Let’s go.