November 10th 2010 – London March

Posted: November 11, 2010 in Protest March

EDUCATION IS A RIGHT! read one of the placards. This short and sharp message not only seems to sum up the feelings of most of the 52,000 people that took to the streets of London to protest against the Government imposed cuts in education spending, but also the events that unfolded during the massive demonstration.

The crowds started to gather at Horse Guards Avenue at around 11am, and it quickly became obvious that this would be a very large protest. Feeder marches kept arriving to the meeting point, and so the crowds quickly swelled to the tens of thousands of people. At around 12.30pm the front of the march started to move down Whitehall with very loud chanting of “no ifs no buts no education cuts”. The crowd quickly broke through the barriers erected at the middle of Whitehall taking the whole street. As soon as the march arrived in Parliament Square a sit-down protest took place with around 150 people pointing to the Houses of Parliament chanting “That’s not what democracy looks like, THIS is what democracy looks like”.

Meanwhile the very lively and loud demonstration kept passing down Parliament Square towards Millbank, and as it arrived at the Tory HQ at number 30 – otherwise known as the ‘Milbank Tower’ – a large crowd of at least 3000 people quickly moved into the building’s courtyard and occupied it for the rest of the afternoon. People’s anger at the Tory / Liberals cuts quickly turned into action when people kept pushing forward towards the main entrance of the building trying to storm it. At first, a thin line of police was protecting the front entrance, but the determined crowd kept pushing forward and so some windows got eventually smashed. At this point a large number of protestors stormed the building’s foyer and moved towards the upper floors, whilst others quickly made it to the roof provoking loud cheers from the crowds at the courtyard. At this point a stronger line of riot police moved in to protect the building’s entrance, but this didn’t prevent people from occupying it for a good few hours of quite surreal images as riot police were ‘protecting’ the front entrance whilst, a few meters away, people were still breaking windows and entering the building. Eventually riot police moved in to re-take the foyer and keeping people out.

On being spoken to the rooftop occupants issued this statement:

“We oppose all cuts and we stand in solidarity with public sector workers, and all poor, disabled, elderly and working people. We are occupying the roof in opposition to the marketisation of education pushed through by the coalition government, and the system they are pushing through of helping the rich and attacking the poor. We call for direct action to oppose these cuts. This is only the beginning of the resistance to the destruction of our education system and public services.”

By late afternoon a crowd of around 2000 people were still at the courtyard, and at around 4.30pm the mobile sound system announced that it was moving away towards the LSE where an ‘after-party’ event was taking place. Around 1000 people followed the sound-system back towards Parliament Square, passing large lines of riot police getting ready for what later turned out to be a kettle of those that stayed behind at the Millbank tower. The latest reports talk of a total number of 32 arrests at the kettle, where people have only been let out after being identified and photographed.

All in all it turned out to be a very determined protest, where the anger people feel at the cuts in public and social spending clearly started to manifest itself in the streets of London. Later Parliament Square was occupied (again) by the Open University and the campaign against fees and cuts is calling to sign a statement of solidarity with the arrested students. A statement congratulating the anti-cuts demonstrators has also been signed by hundreds of academics and university workers and a petition to stand with protesters against victimisation can be signed online. http://www.petitiononline.com/st53231/petition.html

A banner hung at the ‘education camp’ reads “This is Only the Beginning”. If that proves to be true, then it seems that the Government’s imposed ‘austerity measures’ will not go down so smoothly and will be resisted in the months to come. Only time will tell.

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