This is a statement from York Anarchists, a group of anarchist radicals living and working in the city of York, concerning the anti-cuts protest on the 19th of February, 2011. This statement is intended for immediate release. It expresses our group’s views on the events on that protest, and we do not claim to speak for anyone except ourselves.
Last Saturday, York Stop the Cuts called a demonstration in protest against the coalition government’s programme of cuts to public services, welfare and education. Members of York Anarchists were in attendance, carrying anarchist flags and distributing literature at the start of the demonstration. Following the usual march around the block, there was a small rally in Parliament Street with a succession of speakers on the subject of the cuts. During the rally, a group of demonstrators decided after a brief discussion to continue the protest, and to target shops owned by tax-dodging companies. This group included members of York Anarchists and others.
Our intentions, and our actions, were entirely peaceful. The group protested at a number of locations including Vodafone, Bhs and Boots Opticians. While the group were audible and angry, we were at pains to make clear to workers in these stores that the protest was not aimed at them, but at their employers. After protesting inside and outside several stores around York, we headed home in good spirits.
Why we protest:
We felt the need, following the succession of demonstrations in York over the last few months, many of which we attended, to have a presence on this protest not just individually but as radical workers. It was our feeling that the anti-cuts movement in York is needs to move in new directions, towards the use of more militant tactics and direct action. As anarchists, we believe that real and meaningful social change can only come from below – appealing to those in power to act on our behalf is a dead end. Only a campaign of organised, mass direct action by working class people will stop these cuts. Our intention in having a visible presence on this protest was to express support for such tactics and try and promote a direct-action oriented approach.
On the use of masks:
Before the demonstration, we made a group decision to cover our faces during the course of the march and the protests that followed it. This decision was taken in light of the deployment of Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) at previous protests in York.
The use of face masks is not intended to be intimidating. Their purpose is to protect the identities of protesters in order to prevent harassment and victimisation of demonstrators by the police. Following the wave of national student protests that began last year, hundreds of people have been arrested after being filmed or photographed by FIT, security cameras, media footage and so on. Given the current climate, we decided that wearing masks was a necessary precaution.