At the time of writing last weekend, there were 452 occupations around the world. A week later, that number has risen to 1,281 occupations and the movement keeps on growing! Here is a short film from the ‘Block the Bridge, Block the Bill!’ occupation on Westminster Bridge in London.
What Does ‘Block the Bridge, Block the Bill’ Mean?
The House of Lords are set to debate the government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill on the 11th October 2011, with almost 100 peers requesting to talk in the debate. A vote on the Bill is expected the following day.
If implemented, this will result in substantial changes to the NHS such as clinicians being given control over budgets – resulting in less time to treat patients and private patients will be treated at the expense of NHS patients (the private patient income gap will be abolished. There will also be a reduced priority to treat chronic and complex conditions.
Current optimised education and training systems within the NHS will be wrecked. The reforms have a complete over reliance on the use of ‘market forces’ to drive improvement and efficiencies. This is especially worrying at a time of financial pressure.
Within the bill there are proposals for increased patient choice, but the British Medical Association wants proof that this will not be regarded as a higher priority than developing integrated services and ensuring equitable access to care. The Bill as it stands threatens the ability of the NHS to operate effectively.
Whereas the occupations that started last weekend in the UK were set up to protest against government cuts and corporate greed, this occupation was more specific in its statement.
‘Block the Bridge, Block the Bill’ was organised by UK Uncut as a spectacular act of mass civil disobedience. By blocking Westminster Bridge, UK Uncut intended to symbolically block the Bill getting from Parliament to the hospitals.
It is reported that Labour peers are expected to table an amendment calling for it to be dropped altogether, while Lib Dems have vowed to push for further changes.
Individual photos can also be found here.
What Was It Like At The Occupation?
At 1pm, over 3000 people decided to sit or lie down in the middle of the road. There was an amazing mix of people – from the concerned youth, to families having picnics, elderly people and also doctors and nurses decked out in scrubs. Many pretend emergency operations were conducted by the crowds which resulted in a lot of fake blood being spilt. But no one started to cry – there was an insuppressible atmosphere of hope in the air.
There was a Police blockade at the Parliament end of the bridge with individuals being allowed to pass through, but nobody bothered to try and get past them anyway, it was staying on the bridge that was important.
Plenty of comedians attended to entertain the crowds. There was a children’s area further along the bridge and rolls of paper were laid out for the children to draw on. Some children, in their own act of civil disobedience may have slipped off the paper slightly and ended up drawing on the road….
A large banner was unfurled reading ‘Save Our NHS’ that stretched the width of the bridge and several bands wondered around causing impromptu discos.
Even when tourists were drawn in by the cheering and clapping and subsequently blocked from getting to the other side of the bridge by people covered in fake blood (and told to use one of the nearby bridges) the tourists were happy once it was explained to them why the bridge was being occupied.
Both the occupation that started in Manchester last weekend and this one on Westminster Bridge were very well organised. A general assembly where everyone sits down to talk about the reasons for the occupation and what actions to take in the future occurred on both occasions. Over 400 people participated on this occasion.
The occupations in the UK are completely safe to attend for children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents – for everyone! Why don’t you take a look at the next one which is happening this weekend in London. Click here to read all about it.
Click Here to sign a petition opposing the current, proposed reforms to the NHS.
Where Can I Find More Information about the Occupy! Movement
Click Here for information if you live in the UK.
Click Here for information if you live near Wall Street in New York, USA.
Click Here for information if you live on planet Earth.