"war against the poor" #ProtestLincs banner
"war against the poor" #ProtestLincs banner
“Fight the war against the poor,” read one banner at the protest (Photo: Gregor Smith)

A new activist group, known as ProtestLincs, gathered by the Cornhill on Saturday (16 May) to protest against the continued commitment to austerity by the newly-elected Conservative government.

PR Now placard, #ProtestLincs
The group were protesting for a more representative voting system following the 2015 general election results (Photo: Gregor Smith)

Around 100 people attended the gathering, including representatives from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and the Green Party, as well as human rights, animal welfare, and voting reform campaigners.

The formation of the new group took place entirely over Facebook, led by Open University student Natalie Willetts.

She told The Linc about her reasons for organising the protest: “I saw that people like me weren’t being represented, and obviously I thought that was incredibly unfair. I decided that people needed a voice and to gather people together to get their voices heard.

“Today’s protest was against austerity, against the cuts that have been made to vital public services, and an opening to ProtestLincs. We just wanted to unite people in the struggles most of us were feeling.”

While attendance at the protest wasn’t as high as those signed up on social networking, Natalie was optimistic about the number of passers-by affected by their actions.

Natalie Willetts of #ProtestLincs speaks into a megaphone
19-year-old Natalie Willetts founded the ProtestLincs group, and was part of the small team organising their first protest (Photo: Gregor Smith)

“The 200 people we were expecting didn’t quite turn up, but that hasn’t disheartened me, and neither has it disheartened anyone who has turned up,” she confirmed. “We’ve all had a really good time; we’ve been laughing together, sharing stories.

“I have seen a few people stopping to have a look around and find out what was happening, and that’s what we wanted.

“We wanted people to stop in the street and realise, ‘wow, these people are really against the cuts’! People were realising we aren’t going to be silent any more.”

Another protester at the event, Gaynor, had been an anti-capitalist protester for over 30 years. She told The Linc she hoped ProtestLincs would be successful in achieving its aim of uniting a variety of left-wing protesters “under one banner”.

anti-capitalist protester
Socialist Gaynor came to Lincoln for university, after starting her protesting life in her home city of Liverpool (Photo: Gregor Smith)

“I came today to hear people talk from their hearts about things they’re concerned about,” she explained. “It felt like a people’s forum, and I enjoyed that.

“I’ve been protesting a long time, and it would be really great if it could join all the people I’ve met protesting together under one banner. There’s the fire brigade protest, the library protests, the care services protests, benefit sanctions protests… I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve still met new people here today.

“There’s a lot of us, we just don’t know each other yet.”

ProtestLincs will make its next public appearance as part of the Lincoln Against Racism and Fascism (LARF) demonstration on July 25, which aims to counter a separate, anti-Islamic march by the English Defence League in Lincoln on the same day.

“They’re having a protest that promotes Islamophobia, and we shan’t stand for that,” Natalie said. “We’ll be there, getting our voices heard, and standing up for the Muslim community of Lincoln and beyond.”

The last clash between the EDL (then known as the East Anglian Patriots; pictured below) and anti-fascist LARF demonstrators occurred in January 2014. Despite high tensions, no arrests were made.

East Anglian Patriots march, Jan 2014
East Anglian Patriots march, Jan 2014 (Photo: Gregor Smith)

“People in England are often scared of the Muslim community, and this is encouraged by mainstream media,” Natalie continued.

“We want to change people’s perceptions of the Muslim community – many seem to think it’s oppressive, that there’s no choice, and that women especially are oppressed; whereas a lot of Muslim women are choosing to wear what they want to wear. They are choosing to wear the headscarves and the modest clothing, and they don’t need liberating.”