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".


Chilli Sauce
Dec 8 2010 19:17
no1 wrote:
Just saw this on facebook - it is apparently Euston station. Anyone know about it?

Dec 8 2010 19:22
no1 wrote:
Just saw this on facebook - it is apparently Euston station. Anyone know about it?

It was the culmination of the UCL's organised 'Teach-Out': a series of public lectures around London (including some on tube trains). It culminated in a massive lecture given in Euston Station (in the pic).

Also, been looking into the Exeter occupation. I was kind of expecting it to be organised by the Socialist Students (as they were the only vaguely left student group around, the Labour Students having collapsed through lack of members) - but it seems like a really diverse, yet solid bunch. Democratic, consensus decision making, everything. Seems to be getting support from some of my friends who aren't renowned for being political too.

Fifty of them are staying overnight, and the initial occupiers apparently contained members of the public, too.

Dec 8 2010 19:59

thanks for the info - I was hoping it was the first of a series of blockades

Dec 8 2010 23:22

Interview with students from Camden School for Girls on Channel 4 News report

BBC report on school occupations - though I caught a bit of the news on BBC earlier on and it seemed to be in full propaganda mode with none of this mentioned and an interview with a Conservative student explaining why rises in tuition fees were a good idea.

Local press report from Camden

And from the Guardian live coverage...

I'm at Camden School for Girls, where around 50 A-level pupils have occupied the sixth form hall. Teachers, perhaps slightly aggrieved at having not been informed about the protest, are unsurprisingly not allowing press into the school grounds.

In the face of this around 30 pupils walked out of the school to a nearby park to listen to speeches. Gathered around a sandpit shivering as they listened to plans for tomorrow the sight was enough to draw a film crew from Belgium. Pupils I spoke to say around half the sixth form (some 200 of 400 pupils) have entered the occupation this morning, while "nearly all" the pupils are expected to join in tomorrow's march.


Dec 8 2010 20:07
no1 wrote:
thanks for the info - I was hoping it was the first of a series of blockades

Well it was announced in the Twitterverse with the words: 'Shut down London has begun'... so even if it wasn't a blockade, it seems as though the idea is doing the rounds, at least.

Dec 8 2010 20:16

I like the fact that the evening standard has accused Anarchists of agitating for london to be "Shut Down" even tho this phrase is being used by just about everybody on the web including the NCAFC facebook event page.

Dec 8 2010 20:37
Dec 8 2010 20:39

Glasgow Uni occupied-
"In occupation in the Gilmorehill Theatre, bottom of Uni Avenue since 1pm.

About 100 of us are occupaying 230 capacity room, with numbers increased since freedom of access was granted at 3pm. There are students and staff from Glasgow Uni, Strathclyde, and the Art School.

It's nice and warm so COME ALONG IF YOU CAN!"!/pages/Glasgow-Uni-Occupied/133691460021139

Dec 8 2010 21:21

Kent University has been occupied, around thirty students are planning to stay the night. The university's senate building was occupied after a student union assembly, I've been told by a student at the occupation that the uni security are attempting to lock the occupiers in (even though that would leave them with no exit in the event of a fire), the students are going to try and stop this from happening.

More info soon.

Dec 8 2010 21:37

On the Exeter Occupation facebook page, the Deputy Secretary of the Devon NUT messaged the occupiers looking to see if they would be willing to send representatives to speak at their general committee meeting. They say it will be on tomorrow morning's agenda.

Nice to see some of the unions looking to make links, even if only small ones.

Dec 8 2010 21:38

Also, a nicely modernised reference to '68 on Twitter:

'Please leave the NUS as clean on leaving it as you would like to find it on entering'.

Dec 8 2010 21:51
Dec 8 2010 21:55

lincoln uni has been occupied

Dec 8 2010 22:07

London Metropolitan which was occupied last Friday (I think)
-Students have taken over the Finance Office, the admin workers having to relocate, and today the popular beat combo 'Albama3' andothers played in front of it (For NME streetcred ratings?)

Dec 8 2010 22:23

Video - student protesters plead with police to send medic to injured woman

Edit: video is from last week, story here

A student is filing a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission after she claims she was beaten unconscious with a police baton and was left without access to an ambulance for almost two hours during an anti-fees protest in central London last week.

Tahmeena Bax, a third-year history student at Queen Mary University in east London, said she was hit directly over the head at least three times by a riot officer when police charged a group of kettled protesters on the evening of 30 November.

Dec 8 2010 22:19

It seems that the occupiers at Bath Spa were feeling a little down earlier (I think being one of the smaller occupations without much coverage and thus less support). They made a call out and the other occupations (as well as other random people online) swung into action. A lot of the occupations (such as Exeter) spoke to them on skype - for no other reason than they needed cheering up and a little support. The Bath Spa occupiers are now happy and preparing for London tomorrow.

'Solidarity' is a word being bandied around a lot at the moment, but it's one of the most genuinely moving things I've seen from this new student movement.

Mike Harman
Dec 9 2010 06:35

The NUS has helped focus student anger and Aaron Porter, its president, has been the Coalition’s most vocal critic, frequently accusing ministers of betraying students.

Telegraph is clearly not paying attention if they think the NUS is doing anything 'vocal'.

The Daily Telegraph has seen emails from Mr Porter and his team in which the NUS leadership urged ministers to cut grants and loans as an alternative to raising tuition fees.
In private talks in October, the NUS tried to persuade ministers at the Department for Business to enact their planned 15 per cent cut in higher education funding without lifting the cap on fees.
In one email to the department’s officials, dated Oct 1, Mr Porter suggested that £800 million should be “deducted from the grants pot” over four years. That would cut total spending on grants by 61 per cent. Mr Porter also proposed the “introduction of a real rate of interest” for student loans.
In an email the following day, Graeme Wise, an NUS political officer, suggested that ministers seeking cuts should start with the “student support” package of grants and loans.
He wrote: “It would be better in our view to first mitigate the cuts to provision by seeing how student support can be better focused at lower cost.” Mr Wise also suggested that the cuts in support could be imposed on students currently at university.
The NUS plans also called for £2.4 billion to be cut from the universities’ teaching budget over four years, a reduction of 48 per cent.
A Coalition source said the emails undermined the union’s credibility, saying: “It’s astonishing that Aaron Porter and the NUS should attack the Government’s proposals for being unfair when they propose to drastically cut support for low-income students.” Mr Porter said yesterday: “We were asked by Dr Cable [Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary] to demonstrate how fees could be kept at current levels and on the basis of his request we produced modelling to show how that could be done.
“NUS has consistently advocated the abolition of tuition fees and the introduction of a graduate tax, which remains Liberal Democrat party policy.”

No real surprises there, but that's pretty ugly.

Dec 9 2010 12:47
Mike Harman wrote:
No real surprises there, but that's pretty ugly.

fucking minging

Dec 9 2010 13:12
The latter surprises me, given the political make-up on campus. Conservative Future were the biggest political society. Says it all really...


There's an anarchist reading group at Exeter, who are involved as is the SP, but as far as I could see when I popped in there's no one group in charge.

The SWP / NUT turned up and were leaving just as I arrived.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much going while I was there (they were showing the debate in parliament), but one of us (ICC) was there earlier and said there was a reasonable atmosphere and discussion.

At the meeting earlier this week, I proposed that the students send delegations to local workplaces to dry and draw them into the struggle. This was clapped, but I've seen little evidence of it being taken up seriously. Little acorns ...

Dec 11 2010 13:52

Call on facebook for 'March of Resistance to Education Cuts, London 20 December 2010'

No idea who, if anyone, is backing this

Dec 13 2010 10:57
Call on facebook for 'March of Resistance to Education Cuts, London 20 December 2010'

No idea who, if anyone, is backing this

ALERT! Seems this is a false flag demo! Check FB page for comments!

Mike Harman
Dec 13 2010 12:23

Hull Uni occupied two hours ago -!/HSAFC

afaik that's the first university to go into occupation since the vote was passed, that's a very, very good sign IMO.


Looks like they have open access to the occupation as well.

Dec 13 2010 13:24
Incubus wrote:
Call on facebook for 'March of Resistance to Education Cuts, London 20 December 2010'

No idea who, if anyone, is backing this

ALERT! Seems this is a false flag demo! Check FB page for comments!

In light of how off the cuff and uncontrollable these Facebook events are, how can you even have a 'fake' demo? It's not like people will turn up only to realise they're marching under the banner of GET THE BLACKS OUT, is it?

Looks like water cannons will be coming if things escalate.

Dec 13 2010 13:25

Günter Sare, killed by a water cannon during an anti-fascist demonstration in Frankfurt/Germany in 1985:

Dec 13 2010 14:02
In light of how off the cuff and uncontrollable these Facebook events are, how can you even have a 'fake' demo? It's not like people will turn up only to realise they're marching under the banner of GET THE BLACKS OUT, is it?

True, but one of the supposed organisers, Angel Versetti, is a Gert Wilders supporter, and has quotes from Mussolini on his FB page...apparently the EDL (who, as you know, have international links) have said they will show up to 'support the police'...they have also been posting links to pages to grass up 'Fascist' rioters...(Sky, Daily Fail)..They also call on everyone to 'stick together' because the 'police want to divide us' , and then talk about avoiding being kettled....Draw your own conclusions...

Dec 13 2010 14:16

Re: Demo 20th Dec-

This Versetti guy has now changed his name to John Abraham on the demo FB page...Fascist views still the same though. Fishy or what?

Dec 13 2010 15:23

'Organising' these things consists of creating a Facebook event whilst you're eating your Coco Pops in your pants. So that's ultimately meaningless given how fluid these sorts of things are. And if the EDL wanted to get stuck in, it'd be far easy to be waiting at the starting point the next time a 'real' demo is called.

Dec 13 2010 22:52
Mike Harman
Dec 15 2010 16:00

Motion of no confidence being prepared against Aaron Porter -

So while he's a proper little shit and it'll be fun seeing him go, this is just going to mean some Trot takes his place most likely (Claire Solomon?), and seems like the most likely way that protests could be brought under control of the left (whether the NUS itself or whichever group(s) organise the campaign to get rid of him). Having said that though, the NUS has been /so/ irrelevant to all this so far that it seems unlikely things could be meaningfully turned around even with a leadership change.

Counterfire article wrote:
A union leadership that not only ignores the wishes of its members but actively resists them is not fit for purpose.

Whilst we can pull off huge demonstrations, waves of occupations and direct action, and create a fighting student movement without the NUS leadership, just imagine what we could do with them, fighting with one unanimous voice. We want a leadership that is truly at the forefront of our struggle, and it is our democratic right to demand so.

That old slogan still rings true: we’re with the union leaders when they’re with us, and against them when they’re against us. We will not allow the fight to oust Aaron Porter to detract from the crucial work the student movement is doing in fighting against cuts and fees in the face of desertion from our national union. Rather, it is a necessary part of our fight; a fight which is directed against the Government, but needs the backing of the entire student movement. If we are to win then we need a united, strong student movement, with representative and fighting leadership.


Mike Harman
Dec 16 2010 15:27

Only the Morning Start to go on for now, but

Was unfortunately reminded that Billy Hayes is still in charge of the CWU, absolute bastard that he is.