Thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the UK on Saturday to protest against the cost of living crisis, climate change and to show support for striking rail workers who are involved in an ongoing row with bosses over pay and conditions.
Some attendees also used the wave of nationwide demonstrations to voice their anger at the government’s recent mini-Budget.
Lily Holder, 29, who was taking part in a march at King’s Cross in London organised by Enough is Enough – a group founded by trade unions and community organisations to campaign against the rising cost of fuel and energy – said: “It’s time to funnel our collective rage into something active and productive.”
Last month the government stepped in to help cushion the blow of higher energy prices by announcing a freeze on unit costs, meaning that they will not rise above their 1 October level for two years.
Millions of families will continue to feel the pinch, however, as the cost of food and other everyday items increases while wages fail to keep pace with soaring inflation.
Grassroots campaign group Don’t Pay UK called for a day of national action.
Its followers were among those who set fire to their energy bills in several cities including London, in a specific protest against rising energy bills.
Don’t Pay UK has already launched a campaign that has received nearly 200,000 pledges from people who said they were prepared to stop paying their energy bills.
It says it will go ahead with the “strike” if the campaign reaches a million signatures.
In Glasgow, thousands of protesters gathered on the Buchanan Galleries steps. Activists from the Enough Is Enough campaign joined striking unions in the city on Saturday afternoon.
The rally was addressed by trade unionists and politicians with chants of “Tories, Tories, Tories! Out, out, out!” and “the workers, united, will never be defeated”.
Chris Mitchell from the GMB union, who became well known in the city for his rousing speeches during the Glasgow bin workers strike in November 2021, told the protesters: “You should be proud of yourselves today.
“The working class are alive and kicking!”
Hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall in Belfast to demand more government action amid the cost of living crisis.
The event, which was organised by campaign group the Cost of Living Coalition, was addressed by representatives from trade unions, community groups and political parties.
One of those who spoke to the crowd was Northern Ireland’s children’s commissioner Koulla Yiasouma.
Ms Yiasouma said that prior to the pandemic there were 110,000 children in Northern Ireland living in poverty. “I can’t even imagine what that’s going to look like by Christmas,” she said.
The commissioner added there were concerns that some children could die from hypothermia over the winter months. “This is Northern Ireland in 2022 and we’re worried about children dying of hypothermia,” she said.
“It’s time for our governments, wherever they are, to make different choices.”
In London, Lily Holder predicted around 10,000 people would join the King Cross protest. “Enough is enough,” she said. “It’s time to funnel our collective rage into something active and productive.”
“We’re down here at King’s Cross to support the RMT strike ... Beyond supporting the picket, this is an opportunity to express a shared sense of disillusionment in our Tory government.
“The people want and desperately need change – and they need it soon. This winter is a frightening prospect and is going to show the true cruelty of our government.”
Climate protesters, meanwhile, brought Westminster Bridge to a standstill, with activists sitting in the road and playing instruments. Against the background of the Palace of Westminster, dozens of people have blocked traffic to chant slogans about the climate crisis.
Several people kept up a steady drumbeat on instruments decorated with the Extinction Rebellion logo, watched by police.
Crowds also gathered outside Euston station as a series of protest groups prepare to march on Westminster. Members of Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) had expected to march around noon but were delayed by more than half an hour.
XR and Cuban flags were flown and a sign reading “save my future” was seen propped up in a baby buggy.
Meg, a member of Doctors For Extinction Rebellion, said: “This is a climate emergency and people are already dying, more are going to die from the effects of climate change.
“We’re acting in line with the values of health professionals who are supposed to try to protect public health and then safeguard people's lives and wellbeing.”
While some of the Euston marchers carried a banner declaring capitalism “the enemy of Mother Earth”, others were protesting against the government's mini-Budget.
One protester, who gave his name as George, held a sign that criticised the Conservatives’ lack of “fiscal budget responsibility” along with their record on fossil fuels.
“I think no government can run if it's spending more, like vastly more, than it's bringing in,” he said.
“That can’t carry on forever.”
He added, self-consciously: “I sound like David Cameron when I say that.”
Saturday’s protests take place amid the biggest rail strike in the UK for decades, as workers embark on another round of industrial action in an ongoing row over pay and conditions.
More than 50,000 workers are on strike and only around 11 per cent of the usual Saturday train timetable is running.