In a further sign that resistance to austerity is sparking back to life, students from across the UK marched in central London yesterday demanding the right to free education. This was the biggest student protest since the spiky demonstrations in 2010 when students smashed their way into the Tory Party headquarters.
As on previous protests, many students were not content to obediently march from A to B and then listen to politicians making boring and insincere speeches. Instead, when the march arrived at Parliament Square many protesters tore down the fences surrounding the square. These were erected after the recent Occupy protests and are intended to prevent any unofficial dissent against government policies outside the Houses of Parliament. So far they havent worked very well.
As hundreds of people occupied the Square, a large group broke away heading towards the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills where they were viciously attacked by police. This didn’t stop the Department, a local Starbucks and several coppers from being given an impromptu paint job as some demonstrators hurled makeshift paintbombs in resistance to the assault. Further sit down protests, and minor scuffles continued outside Scotland Yard and the Tory HQ as small groups headed off in different directions occupying roads and bringing traffic chaos to the capital.
11 people were arrested, although all were released without charge*. Many of those detained suffered injuries. According to event organisers, the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCFAC) one person who had been refused medical treatment in custody had to be taken to hospital immediately after being released. This is how the state now responds to even the most trivial civil disobedience.
There is no doubt that yesterday set the scene for the resurgence of a combative student movement in the run up to the next general election. And it’s not just students who should be pissed off. Young people now face a terrifying future of shit wages or workfare, inadequate and insecure housing and the healthcare and pensions they will need as they grow older being stripped away. Not one of the main political parties gives a fuck as an entire generation’s futures are demolished. So when you hear media commentators complaining about violence at these protests because a copper got his hat kncked off or someone threw a bit of paint at a government building then remember who the real criminals are.
The NUS were also targetted on the morning of the demonstrations, with graffiti accusing them of being scabs for not supporting the march. The unions pathetic excuse for this decision was concerns about health and safety as if some risk assessment is going to make a difference to a copper who’s decided to kick someone’s head in for not respecting their authority.
The last national student protest was organised by the NUS and featured a dispiriting march through the back streets of South London to a nondescript park in the pouring rain. It was probably the most depressing political non-event in history. The students who took action yesterday are better off without them.
More resistance is planned with a day of walk outs, occupations, protests and direct action called for on Wednesday December 3rd. On the following Saturday 6th December local marches will take place throughout the UK. Please help spread the word.
*Those arrested have been bailed to re-appear at police stations meaning they are not out of the woods yet. Activist support group Green and Black Cross have called on anyone who witnessed an arrest, or police violence, to contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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