A ROW has erupted today over “outrageous” plans to charge jobless young Jarrow marchers £2,500 – to walk the streets where the famous 1936 crusade started.
The Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) movement is to launch a 75th anniversary re-enactment of the Jarrow March this weekend, to highlight today’s escalating youth unemployment.
But organisers have blasted South Tyneside Council bosses for charging young protestors £2,500 for planned road closures in Jarrow, where the march will begin on Saturday.
Paul Callanan, YFJ national organiser, said: “This is an outrage. South Tyneside Council, which has the original Jarrow March banner and petition on proud display, is demanding that young, mainly unemployed people, pay £2,500 to re-enact the march.
“What the council is essentially trying to do is put a price on democracy. YFJ has organised many protests and demonstrations and this is the first time a council has demanded money for road closures.
“This comes just over a month after the inner cities were rocked by a wave of youth riots. You would think that the council would take a more sympathetic stance towards young people wanting to peacefully march for a future.
“How are young people, many of whom are on the dole or are students being forced to pay sky-high fees, supposed to pay this extortionate fee?
“This is a threat to the right to protest for all working-class and young people. I have been told that I need to pay £2,500 for road closures in Jarrow on the opening day. I am personally liable for this fee.”
Mr Callanan, 24, revealed that £25,000 was collected to organise Jarrow March 2011, which will see around 50 young people walking from South Tyneside to London. Hundreds are expected to join them in Jarrow for the big send-off.
But he admitted his organisation has “no extra money” to pay for road closures, adding: “We knew nothing about this charge until about a week ago.
“If South Tyneside Council get away with this today what happens to trade unionists, students, youth and anti-cuts campaigners who want to protest against vicious ConDem austerity?
“Whatever happens, YFJ will be marching from Jarrow this Saturday, with huge support from local people and trade unions. We will campaign against any attempt to charge us for doing so.”
A council spokesman said: “Any outside body that needs a temporary traffic regulation order is required to pay a standard fee of £2230.20 excluding VAT – unless the road is closed by the police under their powers. This has been the council’s policy for several years.
“The organisers of Youth Fight for Jobs were advised by a multi-agency safety advisory group that in order for 500 people to march in a safety through Jarrow a number of road closures is required and they will have to meet the cost.
“The council does not have funds to bear the costs of all road closure requests; however it does support certain annual events including Remembrance Parades and Good Friday marches.”
Marchers will gather at the bandstand at West Park, Jarrow, at about 11am on Saturday before walking through the Viking Centre, Jarrow, and looping back to the park, where they are due to head off for London at around 2.30pm.
Youth Fight for Jobs was launched in 2009 in response to rising high youth unemployment and the Jarrow March 2011 has the backing of several national trade unions.