On 20 June, Tamil Solidarity marched alongside tens and thousands in the London on the End Austerity Now national demo, which began at the Bank of England at midday. It is estimated that up to 250,000 were on the march. There was a general mood of anger among the protesters against the exploitation of working- class people, and a strong sense of a desire for change. The march ended in a rally at Parliament Square.
The Tamil Solidarity stall at the start of the march was well received. We gave out thousands of leaflets and sold the History of Resistance book – an indication of the crowds’ thirst for knowledge about other, past struggles across the world. We also got involved in many conversations about the cut-backs in jobs and services, and the austerity programme being pushed by the Tory government, and which is having such a terrible effect on millions of people in Britain.
Our campaign to stop the deportation of Tamil activists back to Sri Lanka – where they face likely arrest, and possible torture or even worse – also sparked further interest, with people enquiring about the current situation in Sri Lanka. We had several requests to join our campaign and help build the fight-back.
This is, however, not the first time the Tamil Solidarity has participated in the movement against austerity and cut-backs. Our campaign is always at the forefront on the demands of the working people. We also participated in one of the largest protest in 2011 which was against the previous Con-Dem coalition government, and have taken part in numerous other protests and strike movements across the country.
On Saturday, we renewed our links with the important food and retail trade union, the BFAWU, which organises tens of thousands of low-paid shop and food workers across Britain. At its national conference in early June, the BFAWU invited Janahan Sivanathan, a Tamil Solidarity activist currently fighting against deportation back to Sri Lanka, to speak. BFAWU national president, Ian Hodson, and a number of other leading trade unionists came to our stall and show solidarity.
By the end of the day, we had distributed all our material, knowing that the campaign is growing and making ever stronger links with the trade union movement, and with the growing struggle against austerity and cut-backs.
Keerthikan and Bharathi