REPORT: Violence Hijacked the Student Demo in London
You've seen the News headlines: student protest turned nasty in London. The reports in the media are shocking. I was there, next to a Channel 4 news crew, looking on at the violence in disgust.
We had been walking away from the real demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament looking for a tube station when we stumbled upon the crowd and violence at Millbank House, Tory HQ.
To summarise: Millbank House is stormed by ‘hundreds of students’, police numbers are insufficient, broken windows, lobby is trashed, 50 protesters get to the roof, fires in the courtyard, 41 police officers injured, 35 arrests.
You’ve heard about all this. The media was preoccupied with the actions of a (very small) minority and the ‘embarrassment’ of the Metropolitan police force. I guess violent drama like this sells papers.
Unfortunately, the president of the NUS Aaron Porter was preoccupied with condemning the violence in the media rather than being allowed to address the long-term damage being done to our Higher Education system in the UK.
Do not be under any illusions; I, like the vast majority, do not condone the violence. It was instigated by anarchists, and many non-students taking advantage of the exceptionally well mobilised peaceful demo.
But let’s actually pay some attention to the efforts and voices of 50,000 peaceful students who demonstrated through London! The voices of students have once again been drowned out in the media. It is a real shame.
We joined the demo at Trafalgar Square, blatantly in the wrong group (Arts) but nonetheless with our custom placards raised high. Straight away we were overwhelmed by the scale of the demo. It was something quite alien to me but the energy and the cause was totally inspiring.
The chants and noise on the march, past Downing Street and down to Westminster, were fantastic. Everyone was in great spirits and very passionate about getting the message across to the Government, the media and the onlooking public. Humour played a huge part; it lightened the mood whilst effectively communicating our message.
On reaching the gates to the Houses of Parliament, we sat down. Inside Parliament, Labour MPs attacked Nick Clegg who was failing to defend his party’s broken pledge to students. He has since expressed ‘regret’ at ever signing it during the election campaign.
Regret is also a bitter taste for thousands of students who trusted in Clegg’s promises and voted for the Liberal Democrats with unwavering support. Along with ruthless education cuts and higher fees, this important issue of abused political trust was also a strong message of the day.
The ‘sit down’ protest is symbolic of a peaceful and effective means of demonstration. We had no idea about the damage being done to our efforts (and buildings) down the riverbank. The outstanding support and sheer strength of numbers and support (young and old) was undermined by the thoughtless and opportunistic actions of a few.
Unlike the headlines, this report is not for the few, it is for the masses. An estimated 70 per cent of the country supported the plight of students and lecturers gravely concerned with education cuts and higher tuition fees. More than 50,000 people took time out of their weekday to attend a demonstration in London, including a few of us.
Whilst the Prime Minister David Cameron was in China singing the praises of democracy, I can only hope the misdirected media attention can be deflected to the cause of the anger and shine a light on the voices of millions in our own, ‘proud’ democracy.
Exclusive Photos and Videos
Been a busy week for us, we'll but uploading the rest of our many photos and footage from the demo on Facebook. Just 'Like' our page to view them..
The huge student demo for 2010 is over. But it's important to keep up momentum and the pressure on government. There are a few things you can do now to make a difference to our country's future.
2. WRITE TO YOUR MP - send an email using this site
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4. LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE - all our exclusive photos and videos of the demo will be on our page very soon!
Lastly, thank you for your support, especially to the Save The Student! team who stood up for students at the demo on Wednesday 10th November, 2010.