Fighting the bedroom tax in Huddersfield and the battle of Barclays

Direct action to try to stop arrests in Huddersfield.

The battle against the bedroom tax in Huddersfield has commenced resulting in a near riot outside Barclays bank.

The battle against the bedroom tax and the cut in council tax rebate was launched in Huddersfield when supporters of Huddersfield Anarchist League staged a thirty strong protest outside the local town hall on 21st March. A delegation of five people addressed Councillors to demand answers to questions. They wanted to know why the council tax rebate in this area was been cut by 29% which would mean that people on the dole would have to pay £270 per year Council Tax which equates to £5.00 per week, they wanted to know how people especially those on sanctions could afford to pay the tax and whether the local Labour Council would haul people through the courts and evict people.

The Labour cabinet member responsible was shamefaced but admitted that they would collect the tax without answering how people would be able to pay and made waffling excuses about not wanting to do it but having no choice. The Tories in the chamber were derisory and tangibly uncomfortable having an official anarchist delegation address them.

This got a full page article in the local press under the headline “Anarchists Call for Council Tax Revolt” well worth the time we spent in the council chamber and gave us the public platform we needed to call for non payment.

On 27th March anarchists called a meeting to form a local campaign to fight on these issues and about 30 people mainly activists from the different left parties turned up to found Axe the Tax around non-payment and the defence of people unable to fight the tax and a strategy to push the campaign out into local areas and hold estate meetings accordingly.

On April 6th a Demo was organised in the town centre bringing together the left, trade unionists and members of the public. The demo round town was fairly low key of 70 people till the march stopped outside Top Shop chanting “pay your taxes”.

Later the demonstration entered Barclays bank in a peaceful occupation against the corruption of the banking system. Despite reassuring the manager that the protestors would leave when the police arrive he was heard to retort “I can get the police here quicker than that” and set of the security alarm whereupon the cashier shutters came down, an alarm went off and dry ice filled the store. Right on cue the police arrived and protestors left the bank to find a readymade audience of hundreds of shoppers and bystanders in the square outside where an impromptu rally took place with people enthusiastic about what we had to say. Then one protestor was asked to step aside by the police and the shout went up “they are arresting me” protestors and by standers alike rushed to the police van and attempted to de-arrest, then instinctively sat in front of the van to stop it leaving the square by which time another of our number had been lifted. With the sit down protest and later pushing and shoving it took the cops twenty minutes to leave the square after which we marched to the police station where the two were been held.

What was significant is that even in sleepy Huddersfield the vibe of direct action had gripped the protest and not just anarchists but lefties as well as some bystanders as well were willing to try to prevent the arrest and the crowd was with us and against the cops. Many people witnessing this may be more willing to get involved the next time something like this happens and will now be more used to the concept of direct action, this could come in useful in resisting the bailiffs should evictions for the bedroom tax commence.

Posted By

Glimmer
Apr 13 2013 08:02

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Comments

Wiggleston
Apr 13 2013 14:14

Glad to see HAL have got over their little recent controversy. All moved on now smile. Good work comrades

Ed
Apr 13 2013 15:05

Yeah, excellent stuff! Cheers for the report.. smile

Raz Chaoten
Apr 17 2013 15:59

Sounds like a good non-violent demo and a good media stunt that hopefully will help you build your non-violent campaign.

It does not sound anything like a riot or a "near riot" or a "battle" though. De-arresting is always good to hear about as it is a direct form of solidarity. But it does not constitute a battle especially if the tactics used were limited to sitting down and "pushing and shoving".

I really don't want to sound like i'm shitting over what people did, i just think you need to be careful to use the right language, or else when actual riots and battles occur no-one will take them as seriously as they should because they will assume they were just instances of pushing and shoving with cops.

But it certainly seems encouraging that the "direct action vibe" as you put it is taking off. I would advise capitalising on this as soon as possible by organising workshops on the affinity group, security culture and practical direct action skills (how to occupy buildings, how to fight cops etc). Once newcomers have a taste for direct physical confrontation in the context of class struggle they are often prepared to take further steps along the same trajectory, and i see it as the role of more experianced militants to give them adequate guidance.

when we fail to do this, as in the 2011 student movement, "violent" struggles lack tactics, let alone strategy, meaning that the "up-for-it-ness" of demonstrators fails to translate into material gains.

Glimmer
Apr 18 2013 20:47

Its the way we dramatise events "Battle of Barclays" a bit like we had the "Siege of New Street" when the cops surrounded are local tavern to question one of us after an action against Top Shop, hardly a siege, but still the stuff legends are made of. However Raz is right in the use of language and yes we should use workshops to firm up our tactics.

wojtek
Apr 20 2013 12:30