Education Cut Protest 10/11/10
So, it’s what everyone’s been talking about. It’s all over today’s headlines and footage of the Milbank Tower’s smashed windows featured in various forms of media including news channels websites as well as social networking sites such as Facebook, where video clips evolving from mobile phone screens were uploaded within seconds. This revolution was very much televised. Now of course, the aggression which accumulated outside the conservative party’s headquarters just after the organised protest has been heavily criticised and has somewhat overshadowed yesterday’s march. Aside from all the controversy, I am writing my personal account of yesterday’s events beginning with the peaceful march to that chaotic climax.
At 7am Wednesday morning I joined the six coach loads of Cardiff University students heading to the capital to march amongst an estimated 50,000 students from all corners of the country, in protest of our Governments agenda to increase tuition fees and impose further education cuts. I must admit, it wasn’t dreams of achieving comradeship amongst these angry young men and women that was my motivation for attending the rally. At heart, I am truly just a simple Welsh village boy who leapt at the opportunity to obtain a five pound return coach ticket for a rare trip to London. I preferred to stroll around Westminster and pose in front of various cameras holding placards, rather than dress in lame clothes and cite Marxist verse. I suppose I could be a called a tourist activist.
It was difficult however not to find the march inspiring. As most of the papers have reported, if not a little too briefly, the demonstration was peaceful and unified unlike the violence and uncertainty that followed. The Daily Mirror reported that it started off with good humoured banter and harmless placard waving, I do wonder if the ‘banter’ they refer to, includes recurring slogans such as ‘Nick Clegg, putting the ‘N’ in CUTS since May 2010’. The most memorable chant of the day however was the constant chorus’ of ‘No ifs! No buts! No education cuts!’ which even I, myself yelled louder as the march progressed. I guess the whisky I swigged helped.
I wasn’t at the front line whilst the police men and women being hit by stones, bottles and wood from broken placards sans riot gear to protect them but we did make our way down to witness the mayhem towards the entrance of the building. Standing on a ledge, we climbed up about four foot off the ground we could see fighting between students and police, now adorned with shields and truncheons, their helmets swapped for protective masks. Scenes of window smashing and a hail of missiles were visible, but strangely I did not feel threatened. Instead I watched as Sarah took photos and I informed a lad with a notepad that the fire in the crowd was fuelled by burning placards (nice to know that I made a difference!) The single instance I felt uneasy was when I witnessed a fire extinguisher falling from a window inside the building, hurled by a balaclava clad youth, apparently belonging to an anarchist group. The mood of the crowd was certainly scattered with all sense of chaos reserved for the first rows at the entrance of the building. There were chants of ‘strop throwing shit!’ echoing amongst those gathered; and as if the whole scene wasn’t confusing enough, I witnessed a young man with a bleeding head shout ‘don’t stop throwing shit!’ He seemed nice. The end of the day truly was a contrast to the sense of solidarity that occurred during the march.
It seems to me that the media’s coverage of the day on the whole has been pretty fair. What does bother me though is that a lot of focus has been on what happened at Milbank, implying that it was part of the demonstration’s agenda and paving the way for closed minded, tabloid journalists to label students ‘yobs’. The incident has been condemned by NUS leader and protest organiser Aaron Porter who stated that the violence undermined the demonstration. As you have probably guessed, I never subscribed to the hostility that took place yesterday, although I’m all for a good chant of ‘Tory scum!’( come on, can you blame me?) Of course, it’s evident that the Lib Dems received just as much slandering yesterday as the prime minister and his cronies. I came to realise, that I, like a lot of the youths yesterday naively voted for Nick Clegg due to his artificial student-friendly policies in his party’s manifesto. The Tuition fee rise, without a doubt shows that he is a hypocrite, leaving his young voters with a feeling that they’ve been cheated, this sense of frustration was unsurprisingly therefore taken into action. If one good thing has come out of yesterday’s aggression, it is that the youth today may no longer be portrayed as uncaring towards politics or deemed an apathetic generation.