Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Student demo season comes around again
I went along on the student demonstration today. It was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, a grassroots organisation attempting to fill the role the National Union of Students has largely abdicated from: defending the interests of students.
The NUS had voted to support the demonstration, but in the last few days student union managers have been getting calls and emails suggesting all sorts of reasons why they should be worried about the demo: have the stewards been CRB checked, have the organisers taken out public liability insurance, etc. Since when?!
I'm glad to say that around 10,000 students (I'm told - I was at the back of the march) were undeterred, and held a peaceful and lively march along a novel route that took us along Fleet Street, through Holborn, close to St Paul's, and ending up close to Moorgate tube station. Lots of sightseeing on the way, then!
The only 'incidents' I witnessed were when some of the students refused for a while to move on past the site where some protesting electricians had been kettled by the police. The electricians, members of the Unite union, are defending their pay rates, which the employers, led by Balfour Beatty, have decided to try and slash.
And some anarchists climbed onto some scaffolding in a sort of demonstration of solidarity, I imagine, with the building workers. The police weighed in heavily - I know, I was nearly felled in the crush - to arrest some of them.
Was it only a year ago that we saw such momentous student marches - since that incident at Millbank, among others? In that year a lot has happened. The global financial system, in the first place, the euro, appears to be spiralling into chaos, as this evening's headline on the Evening Standard spelled out; protesting has got more serious, as the police have hardened up; and, slowly, oh, so slowly, the trade union movement is lumbering into life, with the planned national day of strike action to defend public sector pensions coming up on 30 November.
Dark days, busy days ahead.