So- what exactly happened at #Demo2010?

I couldn’t tell you what happened at Millbank yesterday- I wasn’t there. I and other UCLan students were due to catch our coach back to Preston at 3.30pm- in fact, many students had been coached down to London as part of their student unions. None of us had time to hang around in London burning things.

But what of those who did? The condemnation of those students, teenagers and random, trouble seeking strangers who took part in the hours of vandalism and destruction has been widespread. Yes, there were some who had turned up to make trouble, but we should be wary of demonising all the students who turned up to the protest. Attempting to demolish the Conservative Party’s headquarters was too much, but unfortunately, this is a sign of the times.  The political parties who betrayed students were in need of a symbol of discontent, but this was a symbol too far.

Some factions of the mainstream media should be chastised for honing in on the violence of the protest. This kind of reporting obscures the original message of the demonstration, and blurs the very reasons why students were out on the streets. Initial coverage gave the impression that the protest began and ended at Millbank tower- failing to stress that 50,000 plus students marched peacefully.We walked, we danced, we chanted, and approved of each other’s banners and placards. Some people in the crowd formed a conga line that meandered closely to the barriers, only to be pushed aggressively back by police on the scene. This was the only incident of police brutality I witnessed at the event, and it didn’t look very fair to me. Thankfully, as the the day went on, media coverage increased in its balance.

On the morning of the 1oth, news channels were reporting that both students and lecturers planned to march on the streets of London. By 4pm, the same news outlets were reporting that student riots were in full force, with no mention of the peaceful protesters, or the lecturers who were marching beside them.   Nothing was said of the parents that marched for their children or the elderly gentleman outside Westminster who held a placard that read ‘I’m fighting for my grandson’.

The most remarkable fact about yesterday’s demonstration was that, for many who marched, the tuition fee hikes won’t even affect us (with the exception of further education students who were there). We were there to protest about the injustices of the future. Yes, students are angry. We are angry because thousands of students voted Lib Dem, and we’ve been lied to. Disillusion and unrest are spreading fast. Those of us who campaign against tuition fees need to cut the violence and keep up the momentum.

As for those Conservative bloggers who are calling NUS president Aaron Porter to step down from his position- the very idea is ridiculous and counter productive. Neither Porter or the NUS could anticipate double the predicted numbers, or the violence and protests. Vicious criticism of the demo’s organisers reads like Tory propaganda.

Yesterday’s demo was the depiction of frustration and a regrettable explosion of discontent. It’s sad that as students, some of us have had to go to a ridiculous extreme just to be heard. This is what happens when you ignore and betray the people who you were elected to represent.

It’s looking likely that nothing will change. Thanks to the violence and riots, all students have been tarnished by the actions of a few. It’s time to understand their anger.  I’m proud to have taken part in the largest student mobilisation of a generation. Yesterday was of the utmost importance- even if we’re ignored; at least we’ve demonstrated our discontent.

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  1. Rachel says:

    Well said Reni!

    Reply
  2. Tay says:

    Reni, it took someone texting my girlfriend for us to know there was some sort of kick off. We went investigating and found a small crowd with about 5 black clad bandana-ed (?) anarchist whipping up the crowd and attempting to smash windows. Soon word spread and the crowd got really huge. Soon students swarmed inside looking as if it was a huge joke. Music started playing and everyone started dancing and chanting the various slogans ‘Nick Clegg shame on you…’ ‘Tory scum’ and a few others.

    We had to leave, and loads more left because our coaches had to take us back to or respective towns outside of London.

    Anarchists are known for doing exactly this, starting up the violence and then slipping away, why isn’t anyone talking about them and their role?

    Reply
  3. Samuel Gardiner says:

    Hey Reni,

    I didn’t get to go to the protests, missed the tickets for the coaches so I was quite interested to read your article.

    I’ve always been one that believes political violence can be justifiable, question is, was the Millibank “riots” justifiable?

    See, If there’s no appropriate political representation and in-turn, no appropriate political channel to raise your concerns, then political violence wont be far away and who’s to say it is wrong? or that it fails and undermines our cause? Well, the media outlets seem to think they can.

    I think it was justifiable, take for example, the suffragette movement who had no representation, they bombed the chancellors home, they brought down the King’s Horse, and the outcome? Well it at least proves to us that political violence can be justified.

    What was the alternative, just a peaceful protest?
    Cast your mind back to February 2003, over 2 Million people came out to demonstrate against the looming invasion of Iraq and who listened? and what was the outcome?
    So who is going to listen to a mere 50,000 people demonstrating about what is effectively summing up, cuts to education.

    See, the problem is, again like the suffragette movement, a lack of political representation.
    Pre general election, Labour seemed, and still is I suppose, split on the tuition fee issue, however, the Lib Dems championed the student cause, they certainly seemed they was on students side regardless.

    Post general election, students have had no representation, not one Party or an organised group of MPs seem to be prepared to challenge and block the condems intentions on tuition fees.

    Suffering a lack of political representations, demonstrations being pushed side, if not ignored, there is only one way to awaken them at the top when your not being represented and I believe, although “violent” our message has now been heard loud and clear at the top.

    I think its premature to suggest the Millibank riots were wrong, only time will tell if the Millibank riots were justified and successful. Probably a good thing I missed out on the tickets for the coach, 🙂

    Sam.

    Reply

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