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Hundred-strong European anti austerity coalition holds Plebs & PIIGS Banquet outside Lord Mayor’s Banquet, in preparation for upcoming day of European strikes

 
  • Hundred-strong European anti austerity coalition holds Plebs & PIIGS Banquet, serving ’austerity soup’ and peanuts outside the Guildhall (London) while the new Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation, Alderman Roger Gifford, hosts his own banquet inside with politicians, bankers and business ‘leaders’.

  • Rhythms of Resistance samba band entertains those outside the Guildhall

  • Action part of lead up to the Europe-wide day of action and strikes on 14 November.

As guests arrived for this evening’s Lord Mayor’s Banquet, they were greeted with a surprise alternative ‘feast’, with people from austerity-ridden communities coming together to make sure that their message of ‘They do not represent us’ was heard.

With samba and European music playing loud, protestors were given appropriately small servings of ‘Austerity soup’ from the hands of mock European leaders, who later gave speeches about the ‘benefits’ of the austerity drive in Europe. A number of champagne coiffing bankers also joined the protest outside chanting their support for the European leaders – in particular David Cameron and Boris Johnson -  much to the disdain of the gathered protestors.

The Plebs & PIIGS Banquet was organised by a loose coalition of groups, including PIIGS United – Londoners from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain - ahead of the European general strike on 14 November, which will see people striking and taking action in countries across Europe, including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, and France, as well as in the UK. In London, the Coalition of Resistance has called a twilight protest at 5pm outside the European Commission Office (32 Smith Square SW1P 3EU) and a rally. [1]

Virginia Lopez of PIIGS United said:

“Alternatives to austerity and authoritarianism exist. We should demand more, not less Europe: a real economic union, a common welfare state across European Union, including a common minimum wage and minimum health care protection, and most importantly, a real political union. But a democratic one, not a European Union under the diktat of the European Commission and the corporations that lobby it. They do not represent us.

“Cameron represents the interests of the few just as the European Commission does. Unlike what we are led to believe they protect the few, the powerful, the wealthy. Rajoy, Samaras, Coelho, officially elected to protect the public interest, are on the contrary the protectors of an international, European, capitalist class, to which they belong, to which they are loyal. Elected officials impose the same anti-people and pro-profit measures in Britain, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal than unelected officials call for from the European Commission: yes, they share/protect they same interests whether they live in London, Dublin, Athens, Madrid or Lisbon, whether they are elected or not.”

As well as PIIGS United, the full Plebs and PIIGS Banquet coalition includes supporters of Occupy London, Coalition of Resistance, Queer Resistance, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC), Disabled People Against the Cuts, Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils, Peter Tatchell, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, Left Front Art (queer politics and arts collective), Globalise Resistance, Greece Solidarity Campaign, Londres Contra a Troika (Portuguese Resistance), 15M London Assembly (Spanish Resistance), Solidarity With The Greek Resistance (Greek Resistance), Wake Up! (Italian Resistance), New Communist Party and Art Protesters (Portugal/International) plus more.

Full quotes from supporting groups:

Coalition of Resistance’s Sam Fairbairn said: 

“Two years of Tory-led government has made it clear – austerity isn’t working. Across Europe policies of austerity are driving millions of people into poverty while it’s business as usual for the people who caused the crisis. The governments tell us there is no alternative. They say that we are “all in it together. The Mayor hosts his annual banquet at which he will entertain bankers who caused the crisis and the politicians who are making ordinary people pay for it. While they are being ‘wined and dined’ with expensive champagne and Michelin class food, millions of ordinary people struggle to feed their families. The gap between rich and poor increases every day. We are not “all in it together”. We demand a higher tax on the super-rich, drop the debt and put the banks under democratic control, invest in jobs, homes, and the environment and stop all cuts and privatisation.”


Josie Reed, Disabled People Against the Cuts, said: 

“Whilst the politicians, bankers and business leaders gorge themselves, exchange tips on tax avoidance and laugh about the banking bail outs … there are thousands of sick & disabled people who are faced with a future of abject poverty. Whilst Cameron & the mayor sit in the warm with a stomach full of caviar, our most vulnerable people have to choose between keeping warm or eating. The sick and disabled are being assaulted on all sides by this government and it is creating a hidden carnage, a Tsunami of suffering.

“On average 73 disabled people die each week after the DWP declare them fit and remove their benefits. The government have misled the public, they demonise the disabled with the ‘scrounger’ rhetoric, but the actual rate of fraud for disability benefits is a mere 0.4%.

“Bankers get rich on the backs of money laundering, gun & drug running and rigging the Libor rates, meanwhile they wine and dine with politicians and make the needy pay for the sins of the greedy … everyone can see that this is obscene.”

Gobalise Resistance’s Simon Underwood said: 

“A force is uniting, it includes people from different backgrounds, different countries with different histories. In a number of European countries later this week there will be a general strike. We’re beginning to get a taste – just a taste – of that here. Brace your selves, Lord Mayor and friends, because when this resistance gathers pace, your world will change.”

Occupy London’s Laura Taylor said:

“The new Lord Mayor Roger Gifford felt that pointing out what a “terrible mess” Occupy made was a good way to start his year in office. As a former banker heading up the local authority that acts as the banks’ main cheerleader, Gifford really should know that the really serious messes lay much closer to home. The mess the City has made in creating and deepening the financial crisis is now severely impacting many hundreds of thousands of citizens across Europe – which is why Londoners from Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain have joined those from the UK outside the Guildhall today.

“A year after Occupy first issued its three demands, the City of London Corporation has still to publish full details of its assets and lobbying activities. A substantial proportion of what it does is still not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. It is way beyond time that this archaic institution started to clean up its act; citizens across Europe demand it.”

Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ Officer from NUS Black Students’ Campaign:

“The savagery of the cuts and austerity currently being implemented across Europe is giving rise to the barbarism of racism and fascism. Black communities are being hit hard both by the cuts and by rising racism, devastating many communities with unemployment of 50% in many areas for young Black people. We Campaign for a society that values social, economic and racial justice – a world that works in the interest of the majority of humanity and not just the privileged few.”

Ciara Doyle of LGBTQI anti cuts collective Queer Resistance said: 

“Dear Mr. Cameron. If we may borrow your own words, for just one moment, ‘I think this is really important. Because there is a danger, if we are not careful, that this could turn into a sort of witch hunt, particularly against people who are gay. And I am worried about the sort of thing that you are doing right now.’

“You are quite right, Mr. Cameron. There is much to be worried about, and we teeter on the brink of a blame game becoming a witch hunt, not just against the LGBTQI community, but against all marginalised communities, right across Europe, where those without are blamed for their own misfortune while the City of London wines and dines on the proceeds of our toil. And we are very worried about the sort of thing you are doing right now.

“Every sexuality, every colour, every nationality, able bodied and disabled, Travellers and settled people, we are all Europeans. We are all in this together, and together we are silenced. Those who dine within do not represent us. They do not speak for us, they scapegoat and witch-hunt us to justify their own wealth and dominance. We will not continue to be silenced. We will not continue to be unrepresented.

“As those in the disability rights movement have long said ‘Nothing about us, without us’. We will have a say in our own destiny. We will stand against you, one strong European voice, raised against austerity.  Gay or straight, together we will be Queer.  Queer as peculiar, Queer as different, Queer as creative, Queer as thinking outside the box, Queer as angry and not taking this any more.  You can wine and dine inside, but outside your gates, we are here, we are queer, and we are growing stronger every day. Is that why you so suddenly suggested a witch hunt, Mr. Cameron, and tried to shift the blame?”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“The Lord Mayor’s Banquet is an opulent extravagance that highlights how the City of London is out of touch with the mass of ordinary people. It is grossly insensitive at a time when the majority of British people are suffering economic hardship caused by reckless, irresponsible and greedy city financiers.”

Art Protesters (visual and performative artists from Portugal, Italy, Brazil, Spain, UK, Germany):

“We join in spirit and physical presence to this hyper-creative and performative banquet. We are not the pigs, the financial & corporate elite hiding behind entire governments, their private interests and fierce determination to destroy the social welfare system are the pigs instead.”

Virginia Lopez of PIIGS United said:

“We are here today not only to express solidarity with European countries in general strike. We are here today because WE ARE Europe. The fact that social rights are being rolled back today in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece means they are being rolled back in Britain too. Because we are inevitably all in this together.

“Alternatives to austerity and authoritarianism exist. We should demand more, not less Europe: a real economic union, a common welfare state across European Union, including a common minimum wage and minimum health care protection, and most importantly, a real political union. But a democratic one, not a European Union under the diktat of the European Commission and the corporations that lobby it. They do not represent us.

“Cameron represents the interests of the few just as the European Commission does. Unlike what we are led to believe they protect the few, the powerful, the wealthy. Rajoy, Samaras, Coelho, officially elected to protect the public interest, are on the contrary the protectors of an international, European, capitalist class, to which they belong, to which they are loyal. Elected officials impose the same anti-people and pro-profit measures in Britain, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal than unelected officials call for from the European Commission: yes, they share/protect they same interests whether they live in London, Dublin, Athens, Madrid or Lisbon, whether they are elected or not.

“If we are to stop the destruction/roll back of our rights, rights whole generations have fought for, we have to understand that we can only win if we come together, across boundaries, and if we identify who we are up against: an international capitalist class. They want to make of THEIR crisis an opportunity to further the very system that got us to this point, to continue their anti-people and pro-profit measures. But this can be instead OUR opportunity, only if we resist together in a Europe united against austerity.”

Notes

[1] European day of action | 14 November: London events

http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/2012/10/n14-strike-against-austerity/ / Facebook event from London Coalition of Resistance event - http://www.facebook.com/events/542597269089134/

 

 
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