Boaters get political

September 2017 - In the past boating groups have been pretty good at direct action politics but in recent years political action has been restricted to the formal dances beloved of professional lobbying firms with C&RT and the IWA wining and dining MPs and senior civil servants. Now one group is returning to the direct action approach as Peter Underwood reports.

Following on from participation in London mass marches and handing in a 30,000 signature petition to Downing Street the National Bargee Travellers Association is continuing to make its presence felt on the national political scene.

NBTA chair Pamela Smith has issued a call to arms for a 'Boats Are Homes demo' at the Conservative Party Conference, in Manchester, this weekend, urging boaters to meet at 11.00am at Piccadilly Basin in Manchester, ideally with their boats, before marching under the blue NBTA banner. It will be be just one of many protests against Tory policies.

Pamela Smith recalls: “On April 8, the Boats Are Homes demonstration handed in a petition for the second time of more than 30,000 signatures to number 10 Downing Street calling for government action to stop Canal & River Trust's unlawful threats of homelessness and actual evictions of Bargee Travellers based on their distance or pattern of movement.

“The Prime Minister and DEFRA again fobbed us off saying we should raise our concerns directly with the Trust.

“Many boat dwellers have done this repeatedly yet Canal & River Trust remains intransigent. Each time, it was a Tory Government that fobbed us off. Let's make a big splash (pun intended) about the fact that the Tory Government has shown it doesn’t care about boat dwellers.”

It is also calling on NBTA members to support a demonstration at Huntingdon
Magistrates Court, 12th October 2017, Organised by NBTA River Cam.

Under the banner “James Bene is innocent - drop the charges now!” the NBTA plans to protest outside Huntingdon Magistrates Court, on Thursday 12th October 2017 from 8.30am, with an all day inside (silent) protest from 10am.

They will be protesting on behalf of Bargee Traveller James Bene, who is charged with obstructing a rowing race.

At the time he was using his boat to lift a shopping trolley out of the river. The race was advertised as following a route away from the river reach where the shopping trolley was found.

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