Anti-austerity protest London 16 April

Protesters wearing pig masks stand with other demonstrators in Trafalgar Square during a march for ‘Health, Homes, Jobs and Education’ on 16 April 16, 2016 in London.Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images


Between 50,000 and 150,000 protesters marched through the streets of central London on 16 April in protest at cuts to public services by the Conservative government. Anti-austerity demonstrators are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the removal of the Conservative government, with signs reading “ditch dodgy Dave” and “Tories Out” prominent.

NHS junior doctors, teachers, students and steelworkers were among those attending the march organised by the People’s Assembly to demand better health, homes, jobs and education. Speaking before the crowds set off, Labour MP Diane Abbott assured the crowd that the assembly is “probably the biggest demonstration ever” and is “the right cause”.

However, the UK’s major TV news outlets – BBC News and Sky News – did not report on the ongoing protest after it began at 1pm on Saturday. The BBC has since published a report (at 4.31pm GMT) on the protest.

“Fighting austerity is the political struggle of our time,” the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP said. “It is austerity that is the real threat to the NHS. It is austerity which is stopping local authorities building homes.

“It is austerity that is forcing people out of work and into zero hours contracts,” she added. “It is austerity that threatens the future of our young people.

“There could not be a more important demonstration or a more important movement than this one.” At the time of publishing, the protests had reached Trafalgar Square.

Speaking from the protest, independent journalist Nargess Moballeghi told IBTimes UK: “There are doctors, nurses, firefighters and teachers here. Those who provide our key services are trying to tell us things have gone wrong. The public is here to support them and call for Cameron to resign.”

Chris Nineham from the Stop the War Coalition said: “Austerity is not about economic necessity, it is a political choice.” He added: “We can now not just get rid of David Cameron, but the whole rotten Tory Government.”

Anger at lack of coverage

Scant coverage by the UK’s public broadcaster, the BBC, has angered members of the public, who have taken to social media to vent their frustration.

Poet Jacka Garth has questioned whether the BBC can be trusted as an independent source of news, while David George Urquhart, a lecturer at Stockport College, accused the broadcaster of being a propaganda outlet.

Blue Burmese, an anonymous blogger, described the social media comments as “protesting for the BBC to cover our protest”, while Bryan Bastable – a trainer at assistive technology company Vocendi – questioned why the BBC was covering protests in Brazil, but not London.

Moballeghi said: “I don’t think it is surprising that the mainstream media don’t give these protests the attention they deserve. While it’s not the case they ignore it completely, they definitely fit it into an editorial that doesn’t give the protest much weight.

“They could just as easily decide to run with a story like this and put pressure on the politicians to respond to these calls,” she added. “But that’s just the nature of the mainstream press and I don’t think anyone here would be surprised at the style or tone of coverage.”

During the protest, ITV News and the Independent news website (formerly a print newspaper) were the only two major UK news outlets reporting on the demonstration. RT – the news service owned and operated by the Russian government – did include a video report on its site.

Social media protest

Despite the protest not being reported live by many news organisations, the #4Demands hashtag associated with the demonstration was trending on Twitter (at the time of writing), where a number of pictures and videos have been published.

Key figures joining the demonstration included shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Unite chief Len McCuskey, who delivered speeches and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who released a video in support of the action.

Corbyn began by apologising for his absence from the rally and explained that he is campaigning in Liverpool. He went on to say: “The austerity we’re in at the moment in Britain is a political choice, not an economic necessity. And that political choice means the poorest in our society are paying the most.”

The Opposition leader continued: “The anti-austerity movement here, in the United States [and] across Europe is showing the way that popular feeling is; we have to invest in people, invest in a society and not destroy the public services that our generation is benefiting from and previous generations built up for us.”

Addressing the crowd on a stage in Trafalgar Square, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett asked: “How many demands have you got?” The crowd roared back: “Four”.

While protesters are angry at the government, the demonstration was peaceful and described by some as having a “party atmosphere”. A Met police press officer confirmed to IBTimes UK that no incidents have been reported.

At the time of publication, the anti-austerity demostration was not mentioned on the BBC News website or TV channel, or Sky News’ TV channel or website.