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More than 700 local residents in Lancaster and Morecambe braved the cold weather on Saturday afternoon of Week Eight to protest against government spending cuts.
The protesters, including children, gathered near Thurnham Street and marched through the streets in Lancaster city center before a rally at Dalton Square. The passionate crowd called anti-cuts chants like “banks got bailed out, we got sold out” and “when I say Nick Clegg, we say dickhead” attracting the attention of weekend shoppers who stopped to witness the demonstration. High street fashion retailer, Topshop was targeted by the protesters for tax avoidance as they passed by its store on Penny Street.
By 1pm, the protesters reached Dalton Square. Speakers representing various groups addressed the passionate crowd inspiring applause and cheers. The protest leader, who led the march in his wheelchair, told the crowd how he and others like him would be disadvantaged by the government cuts.
“It started, actually, under the last government with reviews of our welfare benefits: incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance. Many of us had been called in […] and asked questions which had nothing to do with our health and disability. The cuts are going further now. I own my house, I get help with my mortgage. If I come off benefits and go on jobseekers now, after a year I’m in danger of losing my house and all its adaptations because they will only pay the interest on my mortgage for a year.
“They talk about the big society. A group of large number of disabled people would be so marginalised that they won’t belong to any society. And that’s the way it’s going. I’m sat here because I want to get that message out. Please don’t forget us, […] we need your support,” he added.
A pupil from Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School shared with the crowd how the Head Teacher misinformed the students to discourage them from participating in a protest.
“They told us, if we went to the protest and got photographed there, if there was any violence, we would be immediately arrested […] and we would then not be able to get into uni, we get criminal record and not to be able to get a job,” said the girl who only wanted to be known as Daisy. She went to the protest anyway and was told by a police officer what the school told the pupils was wrong.
After about half an hour rallying at Dalton Square, the crowd dispersed. A small group of protesters later got together on Market Street outside Vodafone store expressing their disapproval of the telecommunication company’s tax avoidance.
There were strong police presence throughout the street demonstration which went peacefully. Several police officers on horseback escorted the crowd as they marched on the streets. Other officers were stationed along the demonstration route to monitor the protest. Some of them were equipped with video cameras to film the event.
The demonstration was organised by a local civil society action group called Lancaster and Morecambe Againsts the Cuts.