October 10, 2011

IconThousands occupy Westminster Bridge in NHS protest

Up to three thousand people joined a UK Uncut demonstration against the government’s plans for NHS reform yesterday. A spokesperson for the group described the protest as the “biggest act of mass civil disobedience against the cuts so far”.

The occupation began at 1pm as hundreds of people sat down on the normally busy road crossing. Large banners reading “Save Our NHS” and “Block The Bill” spanned the east side of the bridge.

A small but enthusiastic LGBTQ contingent assembled in St James’ Park before walking to Westminster Bridge. Several people gathered under the Queer Resistance banner for a picnic that lasted throughout the occupation.

Other activities included a general assembly to discuss future occupations in London, a game of “NHS Monopoly”, and a “comedy bloc” featuring a number of acts, including Josie Long and Mark Thomas.

A breakaway group attempted to march on Parliament Square. They were halted by police on Lambeth Bridge, where they were questioned and photographed before being released.

The main protest officially continued for three hours, although the last occupants were moved on by police at 5:30pm.

“Well done everyone for today’s action. Everyone who came to the bridge is a hero,” declared a UK Uncut spokesperson through Twitter.

UK Uncut claim that the controversial Health and Social Care Bill “represents the wholesale privatization of the NHS and, with it, the destruction of the dream of comprehensive healthcare provided equally to all”. The government argues that its proposals are intended to “modernise” the health service and offer more choice to patients.

The future of the Health and Social Care bill is now in the balance as Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers threaten to block its progress in the House of Lords.

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Ruth Pearce

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