Student protests - what next?

Occupation in Nottingham

After another successful day of action yesterday, we look at what lies next for the growing movement against the UK government's austerity measures of cuts to services and rising fees.

Yesterday showed continued energy for the fight against austerity as protesters successfully evaded deployments of riot police and horses in towns and cities across the UK, and were joined by similar protests on a large scale in Italy.

In a trend that started during the 24th November, university students were in some cases outnumbered by students from schools and colleges, who are getting hit directly by both the cuts to EMA and tuition fee increases. The character of the protests changed quite significantly from previous days of action, with many areas largely abandoning any attempt to hold an A-B march and rally (often impossible to hold due to aggressive policing anyway), opting instead for highly mobile, smaller groups; evading police lines, blocking traffic, occupying university, local government and shop building. There were also no set piece confrontations with the police - at least none that suited the needs of lazy rolling news TV, with reporters often pictured 'embedded' amongst hundreds of riot police standing around in empty streets, while the protests were occurring across town.

At time of writing there are at least 15 occupations of universities across the UK. - We'll just link to the list maintained by the Edinburgh occupation rather than duplicate it here. Slade School of Art, the University of Nottingham, University College Falmouth and Kings College London were all newly occupied yesterday. Queens in Belfast was occupied briefly (but we understand the space was unheated). There have also been occupations of Birmingham Council House by a large group made up mainly of school students (not sure if this is still ongoing?), Oxfordshire County Hall, and several banks and vodaphone stores. Lewisham town hall was invaded by dozens of protesters (supported by several hundred outside) on Monday during a meeting agreeing millions of pounds of cuts to council services, with similar actions expected today in Camden.

As the weather gets colder the appetite for boring marches and the prospect of spending hours standing around kettled will dim even further (although perhaps not for playing tag and snowball fights), so what's coming up next?

- Some universities are entering their second week of occupation, and being joined by fresh ones every couple of days. These occupations have in some cases successfully opened their doors to school students and the wider community, and nearly all are maintaining active contact with the outside world via frequently updated blogs and twitter accounts. Will we see occupations of schools, sixth form colleges, more local council buildings and high profile landmarks follow this?

- The 'Workers and Students Movement' on Facebook put out a callout for events on 4th and 5th December. Events are being advertised in Atherton, Birmingham, Dewsbury, Lancaster, Leicester, Manchester, Norwich, Sunderland and Wigan. While there is no official march planned in London, there is already a March on Parliament for a Zero Carbon Britain which had been booked previously, and a protest planned against the London Lib Dem conference.

- This all coincides with theUK Uncut a 'National Day of Action Against Tax Avoiders', organised for the 4th December. Previous targets of these protests have included Vodaphone (with an estimated £7bn in avoided tax) and Top Shop, whose owner Philip Green is both an adviser to the government on waste cutting, and has been personally highlighted for hundreds of millions of pounds in tax avoidance.

- On Sunday 5th there are actions planned in Bristol, Colchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.

- In many cases these protests are being called by local anti-cuts groups as opposed to student groups, this should give the lie to the media's (not to mention the NUS) constant portrayal of these protests as only about tuition fees.

- New National Days of Action have been called by the National Campaign Against Feeds and Cuts for the 9th and 11th December (that page is currently a bit confused about dates, we understand the NCAFC is working on it).

- the NUS and UCU, conscious that they've been entirely ignored over the past few weeks, have tried to get back in on the action by announcing a march on the day fee increases are debated in parliament, alongside 'mass lobbying' of MPs (surely they're not suggesting mass occupations of constiuency offices are they?), and a candlelight vigil.

The occupations, rolling and weekend actions are extremely important if what has so far largely been a movement led by students can maintain momentum and expand to incorporate workers, benefits claimaints and pensioners - all of whom are going to be deeply affected by the cuts but have not yet converted this anger into concrete activity on a wide scale. After all "We're all in this together".


Mike Harman
Dec 3 2010 08:37

National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts

15 December

Dec 3 2010 09:41

Photo from the Greek demo

UCL Occupation wrote:
Huge gratitude from all of us here. We can all hardly believe this… solidarity to all Greek students!
ucl occupation
Friday, December 3, 2010 at 1:33 am
Dec 3 2010 11:36

Apparently the London Lib Dem conference at Haverstock School (4th Dec)has been cancelled by the venue. I've yet to see a reliable source for it, but if true it looks like student pressure is definitely having an effect...

Dec 3 2010 11:45

Also, spotted on the official Conservative web page:

Dec 3 2010 12:07
Auto wrote:
Apparently the London Lib Dem conference at Haverstock School (4th Dec)has been cancelled by the venue. I've yet to see a reliable source for it, but if true it looks like student pressure is definitely having an effect...

It says so here...

Protest forces cancellation of London Lib Dem Conference in Camden 4 December
This event has now been cancelled. A decision was taken by the venue to cancel the booking. Lib Dems will be making a press anouncement at about 10.00hrs today. A message will also go on the Lib Dem web sites during the day.

Whether it's a reliable source I couldn't say, and I can't find anything else to confirm it.

Dec 3 2010 12:17

indymedia london...

tomorrow's lib dem london conference cancelled?

the coalition of resistance are announcing that the haverstock school has cancelled the booking for tomorrow's london lib dem conference due to fears for the security of the venue with mass protests planned.

the head teacher at haverstock school has confirmed to me that the venue was hired out by the PFI company that owns the school buidlings, but that school staff were concerned about the possible implications to the safety of children attending a saturday school, and although the staff don't have a direct say in the use of the building, the PFI company, in discussions with the lib dems, have now cancelled the booking due to the concerns raised.

the coalition of resistance website suggests the lib dems are making press announcements and updating the web site with the news, but i haven't yet been able to confirm this. the london lib dem office does not answer phone calls.

i guess the main question is, will the conference take place somewhere else? they can obviously run, but can they hide?

Dec 3 2010 13:24
The Guardian wrote:

Students occupying a building at the University of Leeds have called for a student strike and 'complete education shutdown' in Leeds next Wednesday.


"We are asking students in every secondary school and college in Leeds not to go to lectures on Wednesday and have a complete education shutdown in the city.

"We're going to meet at noon and hold a protest and day of action in Leeds - and we'd like students, members of the public and trades unionists to come and join us.

"The Con-Dem government has no mandate for these cuts. If we can stop the tuition fee rises, it will throw into question the necessity and inevitability of their entire austerity agenda."


Occupied Leeds

Rob Ray
Dec 3 2010 12:59

The original claim on the libdem cancellation seems to be from the Free Education Campaign's blog, doesn't mention whether the conference is off.

Dec 3 2010 13:19
Rob Ray wrote:
The original claim on the libdem cancellation seems to be from the Free Education Campaign's blog, doesn't mention whether the conference is off.

BBC report it's moved to another location.

Dec 3 2010 13:24
Dec 3 2010 13:27
Dec 3 2010 13:32

nice. 'working together to win'

Rob Ray
Dec 3 2010 13:36

Lol they'd refused to tell reporters where it was as well, obviously someone didn't get the memo grin

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 3 2010 13:42
I'm really wary of moving it to a centralised London demo. Maybe misjudging things, but while I can see the angry kids from past 2 days of action totally fucking shit up locally, I can't see them heading up to London. I'm mostly thinking outloud here, but I think the mistake here is confusing (slightly incoherent) working class rage with a a nasecent "movement" - for me what made past 2 days of action so important was it was a very genuine and immediate responce to being fucked over. However, much as NCAFC et al may want it to be, for the overwhelming part it just didn't feel like a political movement that can be directed to demos in the capital. In this it felt very very different to Iraq demos for example.

I mean I'd love to be wrong, and obviously massive disorder outside parliament would be amazing!

I agree with you, demos should be localised, and the decentralisation of the movement offers more avenues for self-expression and autonomy from the leftist recuperators (as we are seeing up and down the country).

To be honest though, I think there may well be enough people in London itself to make massive disorder ouside Parliament a real possibility. People are right to point to the huge numbers of school kids/6th formers on demos, but they need to add to them the large figures of lumpen rude boy estate kids who always come out to have a pop at the rozz, as well as the assorted anarchists/leftists. That said, the unifying tactical imperative of these demos is now to avoid the kettle, so maybe Parliament will be abandoned for less predictable targets. I honestly don't know what will happen.

Dec 3 2010 14:04

Well the Leeds occupiers have made a massive callout (see above), so I reckon there'll be some big demos. And I agree with Caiman that there'll be big numbers in London (8,000 already signed up on FB alone).

I also agree that unpredictability is now the big hallmark of these events. Despite attempts from some quarters, the student protests remain resolutely leaderless - and I don't think the NCAFC's electing of stewards is going to make much difference. It's going to be a case of seeing what happens on the day. I think that the unpredictability of it all will be weighing more on politicians minds than any rediculous NUS-led 'candlelit vigil'.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 3 2010 14:07
Auto wrote:
I think that the unpredictability of it all will be weighing more on politicians minds than any rediculous NUS-led 'candlelit vigil'.

But...but...they're lighting 9,000 candles! laugh out loud

Dec 3 2010 14:08

Haven't seen this anywhere, so putting up - just got back from London Met which went into occupation last night around 9pm.

There was a short rally outside (only 10-15 people) with support from UNISON and UNITE reps, but basically lefty-free. This part of the university is in an interesting location compared to some (like the Bloomsbury unis and ones with campuses) as it's on the Holloway Road, so is right within a residential/shopping area. It's also (literally) around the corner from the Arsenal stadium - so tomorrow there will be an additional 60,000 people in the area! I plan to leaflet the crowd tomorrow (I'm a season ticket holder and around there all the time, so hopefully not considered a lefty weirdo!), but they definitely need support wherever possible. I'm not sure the numbers are that huge and they seem slightly directionless - other than building for next week and trying to keep public informed.

Will keep you posted but I'm sure other stories/photos will be up on Indymedia etc soon.

Dec 3 2010 14:16
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Auto wrote:
I think that the unpredictability of it all will be weighing more on politicians minds than any rediculous NUS-led 'candlelit vigil'.

But...but...they're lighting 9,000 candles! laugh out loud

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 3 2010 14:51

Yeah i think you're misreading me...maybe lumpen sounds pejorative but that certainly wasn't my intention. I was making a somewhat dispassionate assessment of the demographics on demos.

Rob Ray
Dec 3 2010 15:03

Second venue has pulled out, conference is suspended until February.

Dec 3 2010 15:15

Well, you know what those LibDems are like, they just attract trouble.

You can judge a man by the company he keeps, is what I've heard.

BTW Rob Ray, have you a source or link I can spread?

Dec 3 2010 15:16

No Platform for Liberalism! laugh out loud

Dec 3 2010 15:17

How'd you know that Rob?

Rob Ray
Dec 3 2010 15:24

It's not online yet, one of our reporters mentioned it.

Dec 3 2010 15:44

Any idea if we'll get confirmation? I have a contact with the LibDem conference protest group and obviously they need info. If nothing else so they can plan to protest something else maybe?

Dec 3 2010 15:45

btw, Is there still confusion over the demo on the 11th ?

Dec 3 2010 15:50

Ah, gorgeous, I could kiss the both of you.

In a fraternal, solidaritous non-predatory proletarian way of course.

Dec 3 2010 16:05

Topshop is going to be awfully packed this weekend.

Dec 3 2010 16:09

I love proletarian snogging!