After a long lockdown and a long winter our branches across the country have been raring to get back out on the streets, joining protests and campaigning. The protests following Sarah Everard’s murder set things off rapidly and were quickly followed by the wave of protests against the Tories’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which are still ongoing at the time of writing. But many branches have also started resuming their regular street activities, campaigning around those very same issues of gender violence and democracy, as well as around NHS pay, amongst other things.
With a lot of new members having joined during lockdown, for many it was the first time they had been able to do in-person activities as part of SA, and the first time they met other branch members in real life! On the topic of first-offs, we can also report activities from two new locations: in Lancaster, as Salford branch helped our Lancashire members intervene in a Kill the Bill protest, and in Rugby, as our members there did their first stall.
For some branches it has been a bit of a slow start with inclement weather and quiet city centres, but the enthusiasm of finally being able to get back out – wielding the first physical edition of our paper after months of digital-only editions – seems to outweigh the cold hands and feet, and plastic sleeves succeeded in keeping those new papers relatively dry… In West Yorkshire branch they report that the new paper, along with the colour posters and leaflet printed for the Kill the Bill protests, transformed their stalls! The day after having the papers delivered, they also put in place a plan to ensure every member had their paper with more to sell on to friends and family. Within three days over 50 papers had been delivered with just over half paid for.
Along with the bread-and-butter activities of intervening in protests and doing stalls, comrades from Salford branch also scaled a snow-covered Winter Hill for a sponsored walk to mark the 125th anniversary of a mass trespass which took place at the same spot. In 1896, the local landowner (and prominent capitalist and local politician) Colonel Ainsworth attempted to block public access to the hill, and socialists (led by a wonderfully named local cobbler, Joe Shufflebottom) advertised a public Sunday morning walk to call Ainsworth’s bluff. 10,000 local people turned up for the act of protest, and while comrades report that there weren’t 10,000 of them on Winter Hill for the sponsored walk, they have so far raised more than £250 for our Fighting Fund, which is a fantastic achievement – and they want us to convey that there is still time to donate!