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Fury as anti-cuts demonstration is postponed over rain

By Rebecca Black

Published 06/07/2016

Anger: Kathryn Johnston
Anger: Kathryn Johnston

Protesters have reacted with anger after a major anti-austerity rally was called off because of heavy rain.

Activists travelled from across Northern Ireland to take part in the well-publicised demonstration organised by Awaken NI.

The organisation boasted that the event, which was scheduled to run at Belfast City Hall on Monday, would include live music, speakers and an open mic, and one news outlet claimed that “thousands” were expected.

The event started at 2pm, coinciding with similar rallies in cities across the UK.

However, just 15 minutes into proceedings, organisers called everything off because of downpours of rain.

Awaken NI later announced on its Facebook page that the event had been postponed because of the rain.

It added that it would be rescheduled for a Saturday in the next few weeks, adding: “Speakers and musicians can’t appear in this weather”.

But the decision sparked outrage among activists who had travelled from across the region to be there.

Labour Northern Ireland vice-chairperson Kathryn Johnston, who came from Ballymena to take part in the demonstration, said she was shocked that it was cancelled because of rain.

“A lady who arrived after me heard it was cancelled and was really angry.

“She said she was on DLA and it had cost her £4 to get there. It’s £4 she said could have been put to better use.

“Others had taken the day off work. I came up from Ballymena and collected a friend of mine on the way from Glengormley. Another friend of mine had an injured leg, but she came in from Bangor for it.

“They said, ‘Come shower, come shine, we’ll all be standing together’. Then next thing was they cancelled it because they said, ‘You can’t expect performers to do anything in these conditions’. I mean, come on, this is Belfast in July.

After a number of people complained on Awaken NI’s Facebook page, a spokesperson for the group wrote that people had remained on site to tell activists of the decision.

“Awaken NI representatives stayed there until 5.15 along with others,” they added.

“Too many of the speakers and musicians had pulled out because of the heavy downpours at the time, and the PA system was soaked due to being let down with a marquee.

“We decided to have a majority vote among those who were there at 2.15pm, and it was decided democratically to reschedule for another day.

“We apologise for any inconvenience, but we handled the matter as best we could, considering the circumstances.”

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