Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/988/27117
Walthamstow Save Our Square protesters thrown out of city hall for demanding a say
Linda Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
London Mayor Sadiq Khan's decision to grant permission to redevelop Walthamstow town square in east London was met with anger and feelings of gross betrayal.
This regeneration plan, including a 29-storey monster block of unaffordable flats, the felling of 81 mature trees, and the loss of a third of our public green space, was drawn up by a cabal of a few Blairite Labour councillors with greedy property developers Capital and Regional Plc specialising in retail, and Mount Anvil specialising in the construction of luxury apartments.
Khan, in a recent visit to our area, had agreed to meet a delegation from the campaign. However, we were met with a wall of silence. But it was the comment in Khan's press release saying "we have listened to the community" that really ratcheted up the mood of the Save our Square meeting. "More like selective deafness", said one long-standing campaigner. "Let's march on city hall", said another.
A raft of figures show how thousands of people had protested one way or another over the last two years. He either didn't listen, or he totally ignored what protesters were saying.
So we attended the 'mayor's question time' on 22 March. We had posters in our bags and were seated in the vast chamber where the question time takes place. A beautiful vista over the Thames, the atmosphere sterile, no feeling of the cut-and-thrust of debate, written questions and written answers, hushed tones, all pre-organised, no room for anything out of the ordinary.
Until, after a question on ballots before regeneration, we jumped up holding up our posters. The chamber was quite full with many students probably studying government, or just on the tourist trail. "This is not good enough." "We want a ballot." "We want affordable homes". A cacophony of voices!
In a nano-second half a dozen heavies appeared. They snatched posters, then moved in to eject us. They got hold of us and we protested, they pushed, even carried one of us by both arms.
We continued giving voice to our complaints: "Khan's in the pockets of the billionaires," "building unaffordable homes is madness". Khan walked away to hide, left his security men, who probably find rents difficult on their wages, to do his dirty work for him.
Our video of the protest has got over 6,000 views - bringing a great response from the people who truly matter. We are now fired up for a march on city hall.
Following this, on 24 March Save our Square and Socialist Party members gathered in Walthamstow to highlight the threat to our 81 mature lime trees. Loads of people came along specifically with messages to tie around the trees. Shoppers stopped by.
We supplied ribbons, pens and card for people to make their own messages, however they wanted to express themselves, or to appeal to the council leader, the mayor and the private developers not to chop down these trees.
Along the promenade entrance to the square and market, edged on both sides by huge trees, every tree had a message tied with coloured ribbons - all around the square too. People signed petitions to the council and others signed support for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition standing for council against councillors who don't listen to the working class.
It was a great way to spread the message of protest to stop private profiteers and Blairite councillors destroying our environment.
In The Socialist 28 March 2018:
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