Evaluating the #March26 protests


8:00 am - March 30th 2011

by Don Paskini    


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In any community campaign, it’s important to find time for evaluation, particularly after a big action like the protests last Saturday. I’ve put together a simple framework, adapted from the Citizens UK community organising approach, which I would encourage anyone who is interested to think about. It is a series of simple questions, and can be applied to assessing any campaigning action, from street protests to meetings, 20 people to 500,000.

The questions are:

How did taking part make us feel?

Did we achieve our business?

Was the action well organised?

Was the location suitable?

Did we develop our activists?

How well did we do at turnout?

Did we build our power?

What grade would we give the action overall?

I’d be really interested – and I’m sure campaign organisers from TUC and UK Uncut would as well – to hear the answers to these questions from anyone else who took part, so please do leave your own responses in the comments, forward it on to friends, colleagues or family who took part, discuss them at your union branch or other groups, and help us together build our knowledge and evaluate Saturday’s actions to become more effective in the future.

Here are my answers:

Feelings – I felt mainly relieved, proud and excited about how many people took part, and a bit angry about the people who used violence.

Did we achieve our business – Partly. The protests showed the strength of feeling about the protests, and showed the range and diversity of our movement, with people of all ages from across the UK. It was billed as a “March for the Alternative’, and I think there’s more work needed to flesh out what that “alternative” would be.

Was it well organised / location – The stewarding was great, and the main protest was fantastically well organised (as even the police agreed). I wasn’t involved in the peaceful direct action protests, but I’m not sure that they’d been planned well enough to minimise the risks of things going wrong (easy to say with hindsight, admittedly).

Did we develop our activists – A key part of any action should be about developing the skills, confidence and abilities of our supporters. One great thing about the march was that it went way beyond the “usual suspects”. There were a lot of people there who had never been on any kind of protest before, and who hopefully will have found it fun and rewarding, will have gone back and told their friends about it and be inclined to take part in future actions.

Similarly, it seemed to me that there were a lot of grassroots union activists who had obviously learned a lot about building support and involving people at their workplace, which contributed to…

How did we do on turnout – I was really worried that the march was going to end up lower than expectations, which would have emboldened the government and been a big defeat. Instead, turnout massively outperformed expectations. To put in some sort of context, this march was bigger than the last fifty that I’ve been on – put together.

The only concern I would have about turnout is that I know people who support the aims of the march and who wanted to show their support, but who didn’t go along because they were frightened by the prospect of violence. This was, I think, a particular barrier for some people who are already marginalised and excluded – the thought of being caught up in a riot or kettled is pretty off-putting for anyone, but one hundred times more so if you’ve got a learning disability.

Did we build our power – I think the movement of opposition to the government’s cuts is more powerful now than it was last Friday. We know opposition to the cuts reaches far further than just the people who are always politically engaged, we’ve developed the skills of thousands of anti-cuts campaigners and brought people together. The action did highlight some quite deep and profound disagreements about tactics and approaches, which will need to be addressed in planning future actions, and some plans failed or proved counter productive. But, overall, I think the positives far outweighed the negatives.

Overall grade – no action ever gets a straight ‘A’ (I guess if David Cameron had gone on the telly to announce that he’d been persuaded and was resigning or something), but given answers to the previous questions, I’d give it an overall grade of B+.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Fight the cuts ,The Left

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Reader comments


first tory troll to comment (and I ain’t talking about the usual righties, you know who you are) wins a week in the Bahamas.

Do you have such a week at your disposal?

“How did taking part make us feel?”

While this might appear a self-indulgent question I can see why it is in fact the first one, since people are unlikely to repeat an activity which makes them feel bad or let down.

I wouldn’t be quite as generous as B+, but I don’t disagree with Don’s assessment.
He highlights the biggest weakness – what is the “alternative”?
(Just to remind you the difference between Darling’s plan and Osborne’s is 0.4% of GDP per year.)

Don, your phrasing implies that the protest was jointly organised by the TUC and UK Uncut. Perhaps it should read something like, “campaign organisers from TUC to UK Uncut.” ?

nah cjcjc you dont get nought, you here all the time.

In the assessment of the 26th London march there was the question asked regarding the venue.
Would it be a good idea if the next protest march was held in Witney, Oxfordshire.

@2

Remind me, what position in the shadow cabinet does Alistair Darling have?

None – and I bet he’s bloody glad he doesn’t.

Nonetheless that was Labour’s most recent “alternative”.

@7

I know it may have escaped your notice but the LP is currently undergoing a policy review. As for alternatives, you may want to start here http://falseeconomy.org.uk/ .

B+? Are you sure – I am happy to accept that for the movement itself it was a success, but I am uncertain it has achieved much beyond increased will and solidarity (and an increased tension with those practicing direct action which could be a problem – the protests were not an unalloyed good thing even on tha). If A is the resignation of the Prime Minister, A- clearly covers a lot of ground.

Still, my opinion on this is clearly worth a lot less than Don’s. Overall, glad you found it rewarding – I may not agree with you, but I would be sorry to live in a country where no-one bothered to protest.

10. Master Adam

How did taking part make us feel?
Smashing the place up made me feel super! I got some expensive stuff in that posh shop as souvenirs also!

Did we achieve our business?
No

Was the action well organised?
No

Was the location suitable?
No

Did we develop our activists?
No

How well did we do at turnout?
1/10

Did we build our power?
No

What grade would we give the action overall?
About 1/10

“I know it may have escaped your notice but the LP is currently undergoing a policy review.”

I can’t wait for the outcome!

@10 I think you just won a holiday in the Bahamas. Start swimming!

13. Flowerpower

this march was bigger than the last fifty that I’ve been on – put together

I suppose there really are people who’ve been on >50 marches (SWP springs to mind) but admitting it does suggest there may be something to the professional-agitator/rent-a-crowd taunts after all.

I want that holiday!

“Was the action well organised?”

As a disabled person taking part in the march, the answer to that is a resounding NO!

See the first part of http://bit.ly/fMhtuI for details (I even drew on a map to illustrate!)

I wasn’t the only disabled person to write about the “being dragged through the crowd” thing, see also http://bit.ly/fjdmsb

You’ve gotta love trolls like Master Adam.

Bet he’s a Libertarian clown.

I wonder how many protestors Liber-toonians could raise in response to zero taxes on the wealthy, no public services, leaving the poor to destitution and more offshoring?

Probably as many as fit in the dank anti-social corner of your local Kings Arms.

Yet this clueless crew are vastly over represented on the internet.

17. paul barker

There was a question you didnt ask – did the March go beyond the alliance of Unionised Public Sector workers/ Labour members/ Students ?

The answer must be a big No. You did very well mobilising a quarter of the population but the other three quarters were largely untouched.

The Independent:

Of the 201 people arrested [on 26 March], 138 have been charged with aggravated trespass – all of them for taking part in the Fortnums protest. In total there are 149 charges, including one of violent disorder against 31-year-old Omar Ibrahim, from Baillieston, Glasgow, who is accused of throwing a smokebomb into Topshop’s flagship store on Oxford Street.

It’s odd that over 90% of the charges are against the peaceful protesters, given the extent of disorder and violence. I wonder if there are more charges to come – if not, it seems like a mis-allocation of resources / easy-win.

19. Ellie Cumbo

@donpaskini

“I was really worried that the march was going to end up lower than expectations, which would have emboldened the government and been a big defeat. Instead, turnout massively outperformed expectations.”

Mmmm – I do feel those expectations were somewhat driven down though; the TUC were briefing about 100,000 at one point while their organisers were tweeting to each other about half a million! Turnout was great but I’d have liked to see more – Iraq was bigger, and that was a cause that should in theory have split the left a lot more..


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Evaluating the #March26 protests http://bit.ly/hu7gbM

  2. Alison Charlton

    When the fun's over, you always have to fill in the evaluation form RT @libcon How was #March26 protest for you? http://bit.ly/hu7gbM

  3. Stuart White

    Excellent appraisal of #March 26 from @donpaskini Evaluating the #March26 protests | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/4OeCelO via @libcon

  4. Nigel Stanley

    Evaluate #26march at http://bit.ly/dQaaLf.

  5. keith flett

    RT @NigelStanley: Evaluate #26march at http://bit.ly/dQaaLf.

  6. Rooftop Jaxx

    MT @libcon How was #March26 protest for you? http://bit.ly/hu7gbM << yep. I think we're developing *our* activists as it slowly pans out

  7. Double.Karma

    RT @RooftopJaxx: MT @libcon How was #March26 protest for you? http://bit.ly/hu7gbM << yep. I think we're developing *our* activist …





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