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Take It To The Bridge: Beyond the “Rage of the Girl Rioters” (part 2/2)

2011 October 5

Yesterday we posted Part 1 of our interview with anti-cuts activist Roxanne, who told us some pretty unsettling stuff about her experience of being arrested – read it here.

On with Part 2, then.

Let’s talk about UK Uncut as a movement. Do you reckon it’s pretty equally gender split, and if so, do you reckon acting as a collective helps achieve this more effectively?

“I wouldn’t feel confident commenting on the gender split in UK Uncut – I’d be referring to tens of thousands of people across the UK. However, in terms of active groups working within the UK, the majority are dominated by white males. But this is why we need to be talking about cuts in terms of gender: to encourage women to join the frontline.

black and white photo of protesters from behind in front of a BHS store, carrying a banner which reads DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING. Photo by Flickr user Richard Clemence, shared under Creative Commons licence.“I do feel that acting publically as a collective has strengthened the movement and UK Uncut’s message – the cuts are something that everyone should be concerned about and everyone should be acting against. However, it is still true that certain vulnerable groups within society are to be hit in ways that the more privileged may not be. Disabled people are losing their Disability Living Allowance, poorer students have lost the EMA that they and their families rely on, and some women will no longer be able to work because they now have to care for elderly family members or young children. I strongly believe that highlighting the different ways in which the cuts fall should spur people into action, on behalf of themselves or those less able, instead of acting in some divisive way. So what if today we’re standing up against cuts to childcare and you don’t have or want children – don’t you want to protect those in society who do?

“These aren’t just issues for women, because protecting women and vulnerable groups is in the interest of the whole of society.”

Have you found any women’s protest movements around the world or in history particularly inspiring?

“There are so many instances of women’s protest that inspire me consistently. At the moment I’ve been reading about the experiences of Assata Shakur and Angela Davis, and find myself inspired by their unrelenting power (and their incredible writing!).

“I am inspired by the endurance of the women at Greenham Common, and the physical strength of the four women who destroyed a Hawk fighter jet with hammers that was being sold by the British government to East Timor to be used in the government’s illegal occupation of the country. I also recall an image of a row of Zapatista women standing in line with their faces covered but still wearing these incredible bright dresses – and that image alone inspires me. But closer to home, I am inspired by the women close to me and the support we provide for each other.”

What would your advice be to young women reading our blog who are concerned about the impact of the cuts? Maybe they’ve never been on a protest before. Perhaps they’re even a little nervous to start – do “clicktivism” and hashtags and so on make a difference in themselves?

NO CUTS signs being held up in front of Nelson's column. Photo by Flickr user dee_gee, shared under Creative Commons licence.“Well, I wouldn’t say hashtags aren’t worth anything – that’s how UK Uncut started! But my advice to anyone nervous to get involved would be that anything that is worth fighting for is going to be a little scary, so that’s even more reason to give it a go. It’s scary because there is so much at stake. The kind of action UK Uncut takes is a great way to get involved. It’s fun and creative and there is always space for people to choose their own style of action, and meet other people who share the same views.

“Although other types of protest can be effective, I believe that direct action is necessary in any situation where other avenues have been exhausted and shut down. And that is the situation we are in now. For example, the reforms the NHS is facing weren’t in the Conservative or the Lib Dem manifesto, and this coalition government is not even acting on behalf of the majority vote. So how is it fair that these radical changes are being made to a health service that Britain should be so proud of achieving, but is instead determined to destroy, without a say from the public who use it?

“The leaders in charge of pushing through the bill do not have the population’s interests at heart, are not interested in what we want or what we have to say. But this is our NHS – we rely on it, and we must protect it.”

Is it hard for protesters to keep momentum going in the face of these cuts? What’s next for you?

“The groups organising actions every week across the country keep momentum going. This issue isn’t going away, the cuts are already being felt, and the fight against them will continue.

“UK Uncut have just announced the next day of mass action, called ‘Block the Bridge, Block the Bill’ – 2000 people are already attending on the Facebook event, and hopefully will be showing how serious they are about not losing their National Health Service by transforming Westminster Bridge into hospitals, medical lectures, and a space to share stories about the NHS.

“On October 12th, the Lords have one last chance to amend the Health and Social Care Bill in Parliament before it is voted on again, and we have one last chance to show that we won’t lose our health service. So join UK Uncut on October 9th and take part in the fight against the cuts!”

Thanks again to Rox for giving us her time.

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