On this last day of the decade I am not going to attempt any kind of political balance sheet. Yes it's been a fairly depressing time in the UK, with the re-election of a right wing Conservative goverment and impending Brexit. But I've lived under similar governments for most of my life, people have got on with it, organised and actually brought about social change.
There were some encouraging signs in 2019, most spectacularly the growth of the climate change movement. Thousands of school students and others joined the Global Climate Strikes and there were the two major Extinction Rebellion actions in April and October. I loved running through traffic free streets between the five main occupied sites in April and on the musical front it was great to see Orbital playing a full set in Trafalgar Square in October (I also went to an XR event in Berkeley Square in April, themed around nightingales and convened by folk singer Sam Lee and the Nest Collective).
It felt like the beginning of a real shift from an activist scene to a social movement, signalled by the fact that so many people I knew from different walks of life including friends, relatives and semi-retired former militants seemed to be getting involved in various ways. Of course there are contradications and challenges ahead, not least how to sustain momentum, but the debates are happening and the movement is already broader and more diverse than the proclamations of any one organisation or figurehead would suggest.
On the anti-Brexit front, the national demonstrations were huge but the more interesting moments came during the mobilisations after Boris Johnson first became Prime Minister in August with the threat of a parliamentary 'coup' to force through Brexit. Freedom of movement/migrant solidarity blocs staged spontaneous marches round the West End and led the blocking of streets and bridges. Brexit now looks inevitable but the need for an ongoing movement in support of migrants and against racism and fascism will be greater than ever.
Anyway here's a gallery of images from some of these moments on London streets in 2019
Extinction Rebellion - April 2019
|Occupied Waterloo Bridge
|Skateboard on Waterloo Bridge
|Extinciton Rebellion boat blocking Oxford Circus
|Sound system at Piccadilly Circus
|Sound system in Parliament Square
|'Rebel for Life' - Waterloo Bridge
Stop the Coup, August 2019
|'Stop Building Borders - Defend Free Movement'
|'Empower the future'
|Waterloo Bridge blocked during 'Stop the Coup' demo, August 2019.
Extinction Rebellion - local march from Greenwich to Blackheath, August 2019
|'Towards the Common'
Global Climate Strike, 20 September 2019
|'Fuck the Government and Fuck Boris' - Stormzy quoted by Parliament
|'School strike sound system'
Extinction Rebellion, October 2019
|tents occupy the roads around Traflagar Square
|'No music on a dead planet' - Orbital play in Traflagar Square