It's nearly two years since thousands of people in London (and across the UK) joined the international feminist movement on the first day of Donald Trump's presidency; and nearly a year since 2018's equally impassioned follow-up rally. Tomorrow, in what seems to be coming an annual tradition, there will be another demo in the capital, but the focus is slightly different.
The Bread and Roses women’s rally on Saturday 19th January, organised by Women's March London, will see demonstrators march against austerity in the UK and share their support with the hashtag #WeAreChange. The march begins at Portland Place at 12pm and will end in Trafalgar Square for a rally. (More details are available on the event's Facebook page.)
"The latest wave of marches are different because we are now moving away from a reactionary position to one of consolidation," Aisha Ali-Khan, a co-organiser for Women's March London, told Refinery29. "We want to outlive the Trump years because we all have so much more to offer than merely being a voice against the regressive and aggressive policies currently being pursued by the White House in the USA."
With the Bread and Roses demo, Women's March London activists are "setting out [their] position and stall as a movement independent of a reaction to Trump". Ali-Khan continued: "We are now rooted more than ever to our British and London communities of activists."
Why 'bread and roses'?
The rally takes its name from the 1912 Bread and Roses protests in the US, otherwise known as the Lawrence textile strike, which saw women textile workers protest against a pay cut and helped to bolster women's rights at work. The phrase was used in a speech by the US activist Rose Schneiderman, a suffragist and influential labour union leader, who said: "The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too." Meaning women should be entitled to both wages ("bread") and dignified living and working conditions ("roses"). The phrase gained traction as a political slogan among western feminists in the early 1900s.
What's the aim?
The London rally takes aim at the UK government's austerity programme of cuts to the welfare state and public services. It's appropriate timing, what with the Brexit deadline looming on the 29th March (the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that women risk losing equality and human rights protections when the UK leaves the EU); and the UN recently ruling that the government's “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies were politically-motivated and had inflicted “great misery” on the population.
"[Austerity] is the common denominator in the rise of economic oppression, violence against women, gender pay gap, racism, fascism, institutional sexual harassment, hostile environment and Brexit," say the rally organisers, with marginalised groups feel the brunt of the impact. (Indeed, countless reports and pieces of research have confirmed that it's women from poor black and Asian households who have lost – and continue to lose – the most because of austerity.)
"With the imminence of Brexit, we want austerity to end and are demanding specific assurances from the UK government. It is time to eliminate the dividing line between the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’. Equality demands that we all get to thrive and not just survive. We demand Prosperity not Austerity."
The organisers believe we each have the power to instigate change, Ali-Khan said. "We can either continue to live isolated, fragmented lives or we can come together for the greater good. We are in the current uncertain predicament because of institutions not willing to listen to the concerns of the person on the street. This has to change." #WeAreChange will be "a rallying cry towards unity and solidarity, and to stand against the constant use of ‘othering’ minority groups to gain political points."
With young women potentially at risk of having our hard-won rights threatened by Brexit, it's imperative we show our support for the cause on the 19th January – and pop to the local florist on our way there. "We're asking those who attend to bring roses and flowers to symbolise, love, harmony and fresh beginnings," Ali-Khan said.
Other similar events will take place globally on the same day, and while details about UK-based demos are scarce at the moment, we'll update this page when we hear more.