Cardiff People’s Assembly is part of a nation-wide network called the People’s Assembly Against Austerity. The Cardiff movement has built a community of voices which holds meetings, protests and marches alongside events to help the homeless and poor. The People’s Assembly is fighting against planned cuts and austerity by the Conservative government. Cardiff faces £120million of cuts under the Conservatives over the next three years who plan to cut £12 billion from the welfare budget. These cuts will hit the disabled, vulnerable families and young people as well as pensioners. Spokesmen of the Assembly say that ‘anti-austerity views, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in government’ which has created a ‘need for people to mobilise as part of a social justice movement’.
Local cuts to Cardiff will affect many schools, libraries and public services. One of Cardiff People’s Assembly’s most recent fights is to save Roath Library, which is set to close following the recent general election.
Adam Johannes of Cardiff People’s Assembly told Gair Rhydd: ‘A few weeks before the election we were told that Roath Library would be saved, on the Monday after the election the council announced it would be closed. It seems pretending to save libraries was a cheap publicity stunt by cheap politicians, who continue to deprive one of our city’s poorest areas of adequate community facilities.’
Libraries are an integral part of self-education and opportunities for social mobility in deprived areas. Figures reflecting on child poverty say that one in three children do not own a book. Roath Library could help to overcome this inequality within our society and was an important pillar of community education. Johannes cited personal experience for the fervour with which he defends public libraries, claiming that despite his upbringing in a family with a poor background, having access to a public library granted him the opportunity to foster a love of reading and lift himself out of his family’s immediate situation.
The public library in Roath had the highest figures in Cardiff for use of computers as many people, including – refugees and asylum seekers – searched for jobs. In poor areas, libraries are crucial to protecting vulnerable people within the community, giving them a place where they can find equal footing with others.
As zero-hours contracts, youth unemployment and cuts to benefits continue under this government, Cardiff People’s Assembly has been marching through Cardiff each weekend for the last four weeks. On Saturday the 30th of May, the People’s Assembly went on its ‘People’s March’ and ‘Picnic Against Austerity and the Tories’. One of the main aims of the protest was to create provisions for Cardiff’s homeless and growing poor. People were encouraged to ‘bring food to share, donations and health products such as sanitary towels’.
Cardiff People’s Assembly will continue to fight back against austerity measures. In a local capacity they will be sending coaches down to join thousands of others at a national demonstration calling for an end to austerity on Saturday the 20th of June. On this Johannes said: ‘The demonstration will be assembling outside of the Bank of England, in the heart of the financial district that caused the economic crash.’
He urges people to join the People’s Assembly saying: ‘We include people from all walks of life who oppose austerity and cuts. Anyone can join. There is no need to feel powerless. We hold open meetings to decide what action to take next. There is an alternative and it begins with you…’ Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.