Anti-austerity protests begin anew after the U.K.’s Conservative election win

A largely peaceful protest was met by a heavy police presence outside the prime minister's house on Saturday.

Mar 1, 2020, 4:04 am*

IRL

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw 

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

nick haley

Within 48 hours of the Conservative Party winning the U.K. election, crowds of protesters gathered near the prime minister’s house on Downing Street, London. A similar rally took place in Cardiff, Wales, headed up by singer Charlotte Church.

Protesters in London were met by a heavy police presence, with the BBC reporting 15 arrests. Footage from the scene shows police pulling protesters through barrier fences and holding them face-down on the ground.

The protests were attended by a combination of anti-austerity campaigners and people demanding electoral reform. Due to the U.K.’s use of a “first past the post” system, the Conservatives came to power with just 37 percent of the vote, which many people believe is unfair.

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The new Conservative government is planning to make drastic cuts to public spending, including £12 billion ($18.5 billion) from the welfare budget. This includes disqualifying unemployed 18- to 21-year-olds from receiving housing benefits (which may leave thousands unable to pay their rent) and cutting payments to people with disabilities.

Similar cuts from the previous government were blamed for several deaths, with many of Saturday’s protesters afraid of worse to come over the next five years.

While the London protest was generally peaceful, a small number of people threw smoke bombs, and one person sprayed an obscene slogan on a war memorial—something that has already garnered a disproportionate amount of public attention. TV personality Katie Hopkins actually suggested that writer Laurie Penny be sexually assaulted by ISIS for tweeting she “didn’t have a problem” with the graffiti.

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News of the protests spread quickly on social media, with many supporters claiming there was a “media blackout” from mainstream news sources. However, this was not remotely the case.

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In reality, the Telegraph, the Mirror, the Evening Standard, Sky, and ITV News all reported on the protest on Saturday night, followed by the BBC, the Guardian and other outlets on Sunday morning. While some reports may have focused too much on a single piece of graffiti rather than the protest itself, there was definitely no media blackout.

Photo via Nick Haley/Twitter

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*First Published: May 10, 2015, 1:02 pm