Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Student demo-lition

Simon Augustus on the 10 November student protest

November 10, 2010
3 min read

At first glance, you might mistake the packed streets for a Mardi Gras carnival. The young faces and large grins, combined with incessant whistle-blowing, trumpet blasting and drum beating, all mix together to form the din of student protest. The noise takes shape and all of a sudden it bursts from the centre of the crowd, picked up by everyone else, ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts’ – the main chants of the 50,000 students marching ever forward from Westminster.

There’s a fun-filled, party-like atmosphere as the surging mass moves past the Houses of Parliament. But under the jeers, laughs and wafting smell of marijuana, there is a serious message – and a deep river of emotion at having been betrayed. The flags and picket boards are either quirky messages fused with humour, outright attacks against the capitalist system, or just a good stab at Cameron and Clegg. Clowns joke with policemen and protesters dressed at Batman pose for photographers.

The crowd, now 50,000 strong, eventually reached its destination at St Atterbury Street, greeted by massive speakers blasting out 80s pop tunes. An open top double-decker bus worked as both platform and barricade. People hung from tress, bus stops and walls looming dangerously over the Thames. Up to this point, the anti-coalition rhetoric had been limited to a few small groups, but the UCU and NUC speakers stepped it up with passionate speeches. Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University College Union, kept the energy high until Francis O’Grady took the platform. O’Grady raised emotions by shouting at the crowd, ‘we’ve got a big fight on our hands’. She went on to attack the coalition message, stating, ‘Don’t tell us, don’t dare tell us, we’re all in this together’.

NUC president Aaron Porter donned his verbal boxing gloves and called on students to,‘ fight back’. He went on to promise that, ‘it is not us who will pay. We will make them pay’. These strong words and their emotional content were accompanied by the shouts, boos and screams of the protesters.

Some were so empowered by the union speakers, and so enraged with the situation, they took to Milbank. Gaining ground against riot police, they managed to occupy the roof of the Conservative party headquarters – waving anarchist flags proudly to the students below. Windows were smashed and the protesters lit bonfires, but there was a lack of hard police resistance. Instead of the usual baton-wielding crowd control, the Met seemed to be holding a relatively silent protest of their own.

Even with the unfolding of these events, the whole demonstration ended as quickly as it had gained momentum. But it is doubtful students will go home and forget what has happened to them. They understand what promises have been broken, they know who is responsible, and they will not be satisfied with half-truths and lies.


Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.

Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu

Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny