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".

Comments

Incubus
Dec 3 2010 16:11

Enjoy!-

Lib Dems are losing cash, voters and supporters

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “The loss of Short money following the formation of the coalition Government has affected the party’s finances, but following a successful autumn conference, we are confident that our fundraising will go from strength to strength.”

http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2010/12/lib-dems-are-losing-cash-voters-and-supporters/

Hardy-ha-ha!

Jason Cortez
Dec 3 2010 23:12
caimen wrote:
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.

Actually talking to a few of these kids, I get the impression they are quite shocked at the naked police aggression, they've seen and experienced. Whilst they have previous bad experiences of the police; harassment. S&S, etc and a general contempt for the police, seeing the police acting as a large force of oppression, unprovoked smacking people in the face has added a new depth to their disgust.

flaneur
Dec 4 2010 00:16
Incubus wrote:
I love proletarian snogging!

Best sort of snogging IMO.

Mark.
Dec 4 2010 00:18

Reports from day of action in Cambridge in the Guardian and the Cambridge Defend Education site.

Quote:
UPDATE: We again have control of access, but police are still attempting to curtail entry and we continue to call for supporters to come to the occupation.

EMERGENCY PRESS RELEASE: Cambridge police and security kettle students inside occupation

University security staff and Cambridgeshire police have barricaded the students occupying Cambridge University, locking them inside.

At around 5pm, officers formed a barricade at the main gate. They are not allowing food past the gate or access to toilets.

A crowd of academics and students have amassed outside the building in support of the students barricaded inside. They are not being allowed inside.

The students in the occupation have called on supporters to join the crowd outside the occupation. They issued this statement: “We are outraged that the university would attempt to starve students out and limit their access to toilets. This is an unsafe, disproportionate, and violent response to a peaceful and non-violent occupation. The University is still refusing to reply to our demands and is instead taking violent means against us. We call on all supporters to come down and challenge the blockade of the occupation.”

The students have been occupying the Old Schools administrative centre of the university since last Friday. Today, the students blockaded access to the entire Old Schools site, closing all the offices, and also occupied the Guildhall of the Lib Dem-controlled town council.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 4 2010 00:20

Well yeah quite, I really don't quite know what's so wrong with this demographic coming out? Obviously many of them have had much more experience of police brutality than your average student (myself included), and many of them have quite an acute understanding of their (lack of) opportunities. I don't think we should deny their existence, but neither should we be hostile to them.

EDIT re Jason

Jason Cortez
Dec 4 2010 12:26

I am certainly not suggesting that these 'yoof' don't come out, the more the merrier. Your comment seemed to me to a bit 'Class War' valourising the supposedly most disadvantaged and prone to violence as the real deal. Maybe I missed your drift, my point was two fold, it is problematic defining folks in this way as it homogenises people with widely differing experiences, reducing them to cypher. And that their 'common' experience and antagonism to the police actually seems to have left them little more prepared to deal with the state's violence (especially emotionally) than your average punter, beyond a have a go attitude.

Yorkie Bar
Dec 4 2010 12:32

local yoof on demos can be amazing. a mate of mine described to me the experience of being in a ninjarchist black block of a hundred odd facing off against the police when a young lad walked out in front with a stick in each hand and started screaming abuse at them. when it became clear it wasn't gonna kick off, he chucked both the sticks at the police line, turned his back and left.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 4 2010 13:00
Jason Cortez wrote:
Your comment seemed to me to a bit 'Class War'

So I'm Class War and SWP? confused Can everyone stop hoisting positions on me please?

flaneur
Dec 4 2010 14:20

And Womens Institute.

Seems like it's been a good day against Topshop stores today.

Read a Twitter that people had superglued themselves to a window in Brighton and in London, BHS, Dorothy Perkins, Boots, Vodafone, Miss Selfridge and Topshop itself have been closed. Short BBC video.

Mike Harman
Dec 4 2010 14:20

To be fair, Class War and the SWP have pretty much the same view of this particular demographic, just with different conclusions.

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 4 2010 14:26

...as far as I can see though, I've identified their presence on demos, and attempted to draw some very meek generalisations (qualifiying them as thus). I don't really see any conflict between mine and Jason's posts.

Auto
Dec 4 2010 15:34

Just back from the Oxford Topshop demo. A bit of a weak one to be honest. A handful of people sat outside the shop (but not stopping people going in and out). Leaflets were handed out but most locals seemed bemused as to what 'students' had against Topshop. The one positive moment of the day was when some protestors decided to block the one remaining open door but this soon dissapated and the store was left to conduct its business largely unhindered.

I was observing from across the road at one point when I suddenly found myself surrounded by Evidence gatherers who were watching/filming the protest and seemed completely oblivious to my presence (I'm like a fucking ninja, me).

Eavesdropping in on their conversation, I discovered that they had expected a lot more protesters but that 'these seem to be the only ones in town at this time'. They also radioed control to say that they'd spotted an individual they believed to be an organiser. They gave instructions on where he was headed, presumably so he could be tracked on CCTV.

It looks like they were expecting a big day as the Clarendon centre had extra security on all doors, as did Boots and Vodafone. Two riot vans were parked round the side of boots at one point, so they obviously thought there was potential for a big event.

I just wonder what happened.

Rob Ray
Dec 4 2010 15:43

I suspect most people are waiting for the 9th now.

Mark.
Dec 4 2010 19:47

Why aren't we supporting the students? Maybe we've been psychically kettled

Another Guardian article, another journalist visits the UCL occupation. To me the most interesting bit is this, though it's only mentioned in passing:

The Guardian wrote:
Into this hub of activity come other, younger students wanting to see how its done: polite, well-spoken boys who want to stage occupations in their sixth forms about the removal of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

The media of course has banged on about tuition fees as the children of media people go to university. Little has been said about EMA, a means-tested benefit, possibly because those who live on less than £20,000 a year are not in the middle-class bubble.

So it sounds like sixth formers are now talking about occupations over EMA...

mons
Dec 4 2010 20:03

I have talked to sixth formers who want to occupy, or have been involved in occupations, but don't feel comfortable or confident enough to occupy their own sixth forms. Which is fair enough, much more likely to get done for it. Also, although self-organisation is a good thing, it's a lot easier to just support an occupation being done by uni students or whatever, than go alone with just other sixth formers. I think getting sympathetic teachers on board, even if they can't do much practically, would be helpful just for confidence.
But tentatively I think there is movement in that direction.

Mark.
Dec 4 2010 21:10
mons wrote:
I think getting sympathetic teachers on board, even if they can't do much practically, would be helpful just for confidence.

This is probably one of the differences between here and Greece, where there's a tradition of school occupations going back to 1990-91 and where I suspect there's always been support and encouragement from many of the teachers.

It's probably also true that in Greece school occupations are tolerated to some extent, something like the way university occupations are accepted here as something that students do, as a rite of passage and so on, whereas here school occupations might get a very different reaction.

Maybe someone from Greece could comment on this.

Mark.
Dec 6 2010 20:53

Letter to their teachers from sixth formers at Camden School for Girls:

Walking out of school is not easy, but we have no other option

.

Edit: also on youtube at the UCL occupation

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 5 2010 12:58

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11920628

Here come the scraps...

Quote:
Thousands of university students from poorer backgrounds could have their tuition fees paid for up to two years, ministers have proposed.

A government source said any student eligible for free school meals could get their tuition fees paid for a year.

And universities which charge more than £6,000 a year could be forced to pay such students' fees for a further year.

Mike Harman
Dec 5 2010 16:22

Clever, since they've just cut the free school meals budget too:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7146447.ece

Mark.
Dec 5 2010 23:51

Students' power is limited. But their anger and revolt can prove contagious

On the comments thread for that article someone's posted a link to this short
documentary about Paris in May 1968

slothjabber
Dec 6 2010 00:36

It's the second anniversary of Alexis Grigoropoulos's murder by Greek police - http://www.occupiedlondon.org/blog/2010/12/06/434-alexis-is-gone-for-two-years-hes-gone-to-a-university-occupation-in-london-standing-behind-a-barricade-in-rome-protesting-in-the-streets-of-dublin/ and http://libcom.org/forums/news/some-news-greece-05122010

In light of this, and the attempt by Greek students to demonstrate outside the British embassy in Athens in solidarity with our struggles, maybe anyone who doesn't fancy marching on Parliament on Thursday can consider demonstrating at the Greek embassy in Holland Park instead?

dinosavros
Dec 6 2010 01:49

slothjabber

A post on athens indymedia from 'Slade Occupation' says that there is a march to the Greek embassy in West London tomorrow Monday 6th December at 13:00 in solidarity with the greek students who demonstrated outside the British Embassy.

Link in Greek

Mike Harman
Dec 6 2010 05:02

UCL occupation has called a demo against the Greek Embassy 1pm Monday 6th - http://ucloccupation.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/solidarity-with-greek-anti-cuts-protesters/

slothjabber
Dec 6 2010 08:31

Ah, OK. I hadn't heard about these, and unfortunately there's no way I can get to London this afternoon. Good luck to all those demonstrating this afternoon.

Auto
Dec 6 2010 12:29

Apparently the Lib Dem MP John Hemming has just had his office occupied...

Sidney Huffman
Dec 6 2010 13:03

*resists obvious joke*

Auto
Dec 6 2010 13:58

Also I've heard word about Bristol and St Andrews going into occupation today - can anyone confirm?

Auto
Dec 6 2010 15:46

From Twitter:

"NUS NEC votes AGAINST backing the demonstration on Thursday, day of fees vote. What an utter #DISGRACE. #demo2010 via @twp1977 #Solidarity"

Caiman del Barrio
Dec 6 2010 15:55

Auto can you confirm any of these?