Nottingham Students Continue Protests
Nottingham students have this week continued to protest against the planned scrappage of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Developed to help students from low income families to pay for essentials such as school equipment, food and travel, EMA has been around since 2004 and provides often necessary help to thousands of 16-19 year olds. However, it is expected that cuts to take place later this year will see the end of the scheme.
"I used it to pay for my bus fare every day," explains recent college leaver Abigail, 19 from Burnley, Lancashire. "Without it, I'd be spending all of my wage from my Saturday job on getting to college when I need to be saving it for uni. It also helped me to buy books which I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise."
As part of a planned protest, students in Nottingham came to King Edward Court, where the Conservative base in Nottingham is located, to voice their concerns and show their banners.
I watched from the office where I was working in a nearby business as the students gathered for photos and chanted "Save Our EMA". After ten minutes, the protesters dispersed and all was quiet – an end to a good, peaceful protest.
However, as is often the case it seems, one protester ruined it for them all with a display of criminal damage and violent behaviour. Spray painting the word 'scum' on the wall of the Conservative building, the protester was led away by a local security officer while police were called – leaving other protesters apparently confused by his actions.
"It was just one guy." exclaimed my colleague Tom. "Everyone else had left but he stayed and started causing damage. I bet he wasn't even a student – he was just there to cause trouble."
So a peaceful protest ended with one protester detained and police called.
Is this fair? Is the entire student community being branded as violent and criminal based on the actions of a few? When peaceful protests turn sour, that becomes the news story.
Can we be heard through the noise of accusations and police sirens at all?