Why Block A Road?


 

In the summer of 1981 a small group of women marched from Cardiff to the US airforce base in Greenham Common. They walked for nine days to protest at the locating of US cruise missiles there. Those women began what was to become one of the biggest acts of civil resistance ever to occur in the UK. The women stood together to block roads and to transform the space around the base in an act of defiance that would last for over twenty years. These women physically blocked roads, their bodies were peaceful symbols against the violence contained within the base.

In both the Indian nationalist movements demands for the end of imperialism and the call for civil rights in America, blocking roads and reclaiming space acted as a means for disempowered people to symbolically mark the inequality and injustice they faced at the hands of unjust governments and ruling authorities. On the 9 March 1965 in defiance of authorities Martin Luther King led a March to a site where just days earlier protestors had been beaten and attacked. At the site of the attack over 2000 protestors knelt and prayed. This act of defiance was both part of a wider demand for African American calls for the vote and a show of peace – a counter to the brutality of an undemocratic ruling authority.

Blocking roads and taking space have long histories in protest movements from peace activism to anti-imperialism, from calls for civil rights to trade union demands for workers rights. These moments of appropriation are a deliberate means to challenge injustice and to call for an extension of rights: calls for power to be distributed in a more equal fashion.

So like many before us, on 5 October UK uncut is blocking a road. Yet, this time there is a difference. The blockades before were about demanding new rights – from winning the vote to displaying women’s right to protest. Yet this time we challenge our government’s authority to rip away our rights. With the changes to legal aid and the proposed shifts in judicial reviews our equality before the law is being taken away – in so doing our ability to hold our government to account is threatened. The cuts enacted by this Government have taken away centuries of hard won rights and in the changes to the legal system are a final onslaught. Every single cut is challenged in our act of civil disobedience because in taking away our equality before the law the government undermines our right to protest.

Soaring over the old bailey, lady justice stands an impartial guardian. Inscribed beneath her the words ‘defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer.’ Are you willing to stand by and have your rights taken under the ideological banner of economic cuts? This isn’t about money, it’s about division, untruth and injustice. It’s about centuries worth of hard fought freedoms being attacked.

On October 5th join us to protect those rights – to tell the government that they have no mandate to block our access to justice. Stand together and say no to the cruelty of taking away the rights of the most vulnerable in society. Say yes to equality before the law. Or what’s left of us then?