Marches of hundreds (mainly school students) disrupted Oxford City Centre, briefly occupying County Hall, Barclays, Lloyds, and Castle Mound (see the photo), disrupting traffic, and roaming through the streets and shopping centres of Oxford.
Oxford, not exactly known for its radicalism, was home of a militant series of marches on 30th November, mainly organised and attended by students from local schools.
From the beginning, it was clear this was not going to be an A-B march. For a start, it was called for by school students, not leftists or union bureaucrats. It was a genuine expression of student anger and our wants and desires; not a typical set-piece. Some people had a massive banner saying 'Legalise Weed - Fuck Fees', which was - putting politics to the side - a genuinely felt sentiment, as opposed to the dull SWP placards which were dropped later in the rally to allow greater ease of movement. Chants also were more angry, fun and genuine - 'When I say Cameron, you say Wasteman, etc.'... It was not politico's dryly doing what they do best, but angry students expressing that anger.
Students from Cheney School where locked in by management after word got out there was to be a mass walkout. After uni students and others rallied outside (and according to one person I overheard, riotous scenes inside), the gates were opened and hundreds of students flooded out, some that I spoke to were as young as 14. Other local schools involved were Wheatley Park School, Oxford Community School, Cherwell School, Leckford Place School, Oxford European School, and probably others, as well as maybe a hundred university students from Oxford Uni and Brookes, and some other locals.
There was no pre-planned route and no prior police negotiations. We spontaneously decided our route, and marched quickly up and down the main Oxford streets, before heading to Oxfordshire County Hall. Groups of school students had planned the occupation, and up to about 100 people stormed the building. Some made it to the roof and waved placards off the top, a few flags (including a circled-A anarchist one held by one school student) were waved from various windows. After police threatened others trying to enter with a baton, promising to hit whoever tried to get in, and then police on horses came to cover the entrance the surge into the building stopped. People began to trickle out, cheered by the few hundred people outside.
After everybody was out, the protest broke into two. Some climbed over into 'Castle Mound'. This place normally is not open to the public, or you have to pay to go up it anyway. Some tried lighting a fire on top, but instead people came back down and joined the others who'd remained at the bottom, protesting outside the Oxford Tory HQ. People set off back into the centre of town; Barclays was occupied, then Lloyds - and you could see police looking very worried outside other banks and Vodafone, which were all closed down. Mounted police pushed through groups of school students who'd linked arms, and again the police truncheons were raised threateningly. A few snowballs hit a cop and her horse. Cops pulled people out of Lloyds viciously, grabbing one school student by the neck.
But this just made us even more 'up for it' by this, and people's excitement was plain to see. Some people shouted that we should go to a shopping centre, we marched through there, where the police horses couldn't follow. A person next to me said, "we can do whatever the fuck we want!" and that sums up the mood. Other people showed their anger against the police's violence. Lots of 'fuck the police''s and so on - from ordinary pissed off students. We marched, at times almost running, through both of the Oxford shopping centre's, and we were in total control.
People then split up further into smaller groups, who carried on roaming about I presume. I stayed with a group of only about a dozen, mainly about 15/16, who felt that it was "well worth a few detentions", and wanted to do it again tomorrow. We'd heard people had headed to the train station, but nobody was there when we got there, and I went home.
Afterwards, Keith Mitchell, Thatcher-loving head of the county council who barricaded himself in his office during the storm of the County Hall, commented on his 'political blog' that we were "noisy and scruffy...oiks". His considered "reflection" a day later, remarked profoundly that:
given that there were similar example of lawlessness across the country, what is driving this national outbreak of unlawful behaviour? I suspect the hard left are working up a campaign to make such lawlessness appear to be the norm and therefore to become acceptable. I wonder ho many of our teachers in Oxfordshire are working for this hard left agenda? One day we may know!
He's one of the politicians who doesn't even bother disguise his contempt for ordinary people by wrapping it up in liberal democratic language. He cuts to the point, declaring that protests and petitions will be entirely useless.
And so, with only about 18 hours notice a protest has been called for today, at 4.30 to protest his remarks. It's a testament to how empowering the protest on Tuesday was that it has over 100 attending on facebook at such short notice. I expect there will be a couple hundred.
It may not sound very materialist, but I something 'in the air' has changed; people are talking about it, and it seems people are really thinking we can win.