Students and workers besiege parliament
Monday December 13, 2010 14:15 by Simon Lawrence - UWE Camp for Education nehttidos at yahoo dot com UWE Education Camp, Frenchay campus, Filton
On Thursday 9th December, the day of the parliamentary vote, two packed coaches filled with students and lecturers from the University of the West England, University of Bristol & City of Bristol College went up to London to join the mass demonstration against the proposed rise in tuition fees. In a fantastic show of solidarity between staff and students, the coaches were funded by the University College Union (UCU) and individual lecturers at UWE.
After leaving the coach the protesters stormed down Oxford Street chanting and joined the demonstration of around 30,000 at Trafalgar Square. From there they marched down the mall and past Green Park into Parliament Square. Fences erected around the green as students sang chants against the Liberal Democrats’ betrayal on the issue and calling for a general strike against cuts.
The police moved forward to kettle the protesters into the square. The mood was high with the protesters dancing the ‘hokey cokey’ and starting small fires with their placards and posters to stay warm. After a while in one corner of the square police began charging into the crowds on horseback causing panic. These repeated baton and horse charges by the police left many demomnstrators injured and 3 students from Bristol hospitalised from police batons and projectiles thrown from the crowd.
Demonstrators began passing fences over their heads to the front to use as a defence themselves from the police violence. This drew further & fiercer attacks from the police. In the crowd masked suspected agent provocateurs urged students to throw bricks that had been left by the abbey. These calls were dismissed as protesters pressed tightly together to protect themselves from horse charges and to escape the kettle.
The kettle continued for ~8 hours with many demonstrators unable to get to their transport home. After many hours police began allowing small numbers of protesters to leave via the embankment where many were frustrated to find their National Union of Students (NUS) representatives holding an alternative ‘rally’.
Tired, battered and betrayed by their parliamentary representatives students faced further police horse charges in order to make history by breaking into the Treasury. Further abreast from the kettle groups of students targeted Vodaphone & Topshop (parent company Arcadia) flagship stores on Oxford Street in protest at their exploitation of tax loopholes costing the country £6 billion & £1.2 billion respectively.
The interruption of the royal’s night on the town by protesters clearly represents the feeling among many students (a particularly impoverished section of our society) that this proposed retraction in the provision of education clearly represents an attack by the ruling class & the old orders on against the rest of us.
The vote passed with a surprisingly slim majority, doubtless as a result of a wave of student protests and action that have been both massive and militant. In the wake of the vote, students may be expected to retreat and lick their wound yet the student occupations and demonstrations across the country rage on and intend to escalate. With the energy & confidence of the student movement inspiring workers nationwide MPs & blue bloods could be forgiven for investing in bunkers.