I’m reeling. Bloody outraged. I cannot describe the anger pulsating through every inch of my body right now. My head is throbbing with fury.
Wednesday 24th November, today was the nationwide demonstration against new plans to triple student tuition fees and cut education funding by this new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government (otherwise known as the CON-DEMS).
I have been intending to go to this protest all week but decided last night that I should use the little energy I have these days to catch up on the mountain of studying i have to do. However at 12.30pm this afternoon i was stopped from going into my main university building. The fire alarm was going off and the building was being evacuated. ‘Damn, fire!’ I thought. I stood there witnessing crowds of people streaming out of the building when I received a text:
‘We have occupied the North Building, join us!’
My rebellious wave resurfaced. I called my friend who told me the secret plans ive been hearing all week to occupy a part of campus in a peaceful sit in have officially commenced. I tried to get into the building and join the 150 plus student movement but could not get past security.
Eventually i found a way to where the occupation was taking place. I stuck around for a while, but i personally didnt see what we could achive. This coupled with the rumours of possible expulsion led me and a friend to decide to join the protest in central London. Even though it had already started, the colourful tweets of the protest re-energised my deep anger towards these new government plans which will cause many individuals to suffer. we made the 20 minute walk to where the protest had started an hour previous. I could already feel the fury.
When we finally reached, we were prevented from joining the centre of the protest because of the police blockade. It was the eighth line that the police had formed down the street. Those students in between those eight lines in the middle had already been kettled in by police, but we were free from the back as we had just joined the end of the demonstration. It was slightly dead, but the jeering and horn honking began to build up an atmosphere. I was happy to see people of all ages; university students, college students and even young school children had come out on to the streets of London to voice their concerns. Good on us, we need to stand together in the face of such uncertainty about our futures.
People soon started climbing the buildings next to Downing Street (home of the Prime Minister, for all you non-UK readers!) and we began to cheer them on from the crowd. It was peaceful though, no violence. It was just as if a group of people had decided to stand and chill out on the street. I did not anticipate at this point how ugly it was going to get.
The heroes who had climbed the building were just sitting on the walls and windows, not smashing up the building. Why then did the police feel the need to get out their batons half an hour later and beat them off the building?
When the police batons came out we all ran back. This happened a few times, leaving a few young people bloodied up. I had lost my friend in the crowd, he was more courageous than I was and had made his way to the front of the police blockade. Flares began to go up in the sky. The tension was building.
I eventually found my friend and told him I was going to leave as it seemed that most people were drifting off away from the protest, it seemed to be getting quite violent. We were in the midst of our conversation when all of a sudden a herd of people began to run past us in the opposite direction to the police blockade. So of course we ran too. The police began marching their human blockade forward.
I tried to run onto the main road as did everyone else, away from the police lines which were moving towards us. But more riot police had formed a new line to prevent us from leaving the protest. They were closing in on us from both sides.
Chaos had erupted within minutes. All alone amidst the havoc I began to panic.
Hundreds of students were running, trying to find a way out. Many were jumping a row of high railings to try and get into one of the buildings along the side of the road. Most of us were not that physically able. Some were trying to talk themselves out of this newly formed kettle but the police obviously weren’t having any of it. Around me, young people showcasing cuts and gashes, school girls in uniform crying black tears – all we wanted was just wanted to go home. There I stood in the middle of all the chaos, feeling imprisoned, when my heart sank even further; a line of police horses had began to reinforce the newly formed police blockade.
I was either going to get caught up in this potential stampede or trampled under one of these horses.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so scared in my life. That is no exaggeration.
The police lines began to close in even further, it seemed like we were going to end up like sardines in a can. I didn’t know what to do. There was nowhere to run. I just came along to voice my deep concerns, ‘strength in numbers’ right? I did not come along to be kettled and imprisoned by police lines, to be threatened by batons and horses. It was 4pm, no breakfast, no lunch and freezing cold – I just wanted to go home.
I noticed a small group of people in the distance, running towards a building on the side of the road. I followed. As if by some sort of miracle, I found a small gate leading to the back of a building. I ran through it and ended up on the main street opposite Big Ben. Two minutes later a flood of yellow riot police manned that very exit I had just escaped from.
I was relieved yet I was shaking.
I tried calling my friend who I was with earlier. After a while I finally got through to him. He told me that he was caught up in the kettle and there was no way out. Police began to move onto the street, I ran all the way to the tube station, I just wanted to go home.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so thankful to be home. Sitting in my warm home, there was nothing like it. I turned on the news channels to watch the live coverage of the protest as well as reports from this afternoon. It was a mostly peaceful protest but somehow only the violence seems to get reported. I guess that’s today’s media for you.
Footage of a few individuals vandalising and ransacking a police van are being continuously replayed across Sky and BBC. My question is where is the footage of cut, bleeding children who were attacked by the police for no reason?
From my television set I see how bad the police kettling really was. I keep replaying in my head the fact that if I hadn’t managed to leave through the gate when i did, it would have been me in these scenes people across the country are watching.
I have an issue with the reporting of today. The police are calling their tactics ‘containment’. It was in fact kettling. They justified the force they used to stop the ‘violence’ spreading out across the streets of London. But hold on, let’s be logical for a moment:
People were already angry, that’s why they were protesting. If the police begin to kettle us, as human beings are we not more prone to become frustrated? If you cage people in when all they want to do is go home because they are fed up, cold, hungry or all of the above, do they not expect us to become restless? Aren’t they just creating a situation in which students would be more likely to use violence just so they could escape this newly formed prison around them?
Kettle us in, of course we’ll become more frustrated, of course things are going to get ugly.
The chaos I witnessed with my own eyes today and the horrific scenes I’m watching on television; police holding crowds of mostly peaceful protesters against their will, police using brutal force without discrimination, police horses charging at the kettled crowds where there are still students as young as 14 there. it’s disgusting. I’m sure some of what happened today violates some sort of human right.
The youth of today are this country’s tomorrow. If you take away their opportunities or make it harder for them to pursue their dreams, you are losing out on a fundamental investment in the future of this country.
I strongly condemn the police tactics I’ve witnessed today against peaceful protesters. I was there, and it was not containment, it was indeed kettling. Police horses charging at a kettle of protesters – i mean what the hell is that?! Its like locking children in a room and then setting your dog on them, where are they supposed to run? What are they trying to achieve by not allowing people in or out. People have been stuck there for up to 9 hours and were only allowed to leave after being photographed and having their details taken one-by-one by police.
What made me laugh was the news of the police bringing mobile toilets in for those being kettled! I found this hilarious! Why not just let them go?!
But do the politicians actually care about the magnitude of resistance they have witnessed today? Will it actually change anything? I don’t think they actually care. They carry on with their airy fairy talks of it ‘Actually being cheaper for students in the long run’ or ‘Students don’t actually pay off anything upfront’. No. But we still have to pay a minimum of £27,000 for a standard three year degree. A debt which is estimated that will take 30 years to pay off. A debt which we cant afford to have.
The reality on the ground is that it’s putting people off applying to university. That’s fine, they can get a job. The only problem is there are no jobs. How are we supposed to live? How are we supposed to make life better? How are we supposed to build our futures?
And it’s not even about the rise in tuition fees. Its the cuts to the education maintenance allowance (which keeps an enormous number of children aged 16-18 in education), its the cuts to education funding, its the general principle behind it all. Why should we have to pay £9,000 a year in fees when everyone sitting in parliament today got their education for free?
Ok, we are in the age of austerity, but maybe if they cut the £3billion they spend on war every year and used the money that kills a majority of innocent Afghanistanis every day, maybe then we would get somewhere.
Prime minister David Cameron has been quoted saying ‘They have a right to protest’. Yes we damn right do. But we also have a right to do it without being beaten by the police or trampled by their horses.
Children who are using education to get out of poverty, what are they going to do?
Mothers who depend on housing and child benefit to put food on the table for their young children, what are they going to do?
Old-aged pensioners who can’t afford the raised gas prices, what are they going to do?
Havoc was wreaked on the streets of London today. Another protest has been called in 6 days time.
Let’s stand up for our futures; Bring on the revolution.
Education is a right, not a privilege.
[Featured Picture: A student protester spraypaints the word revolution on a wall in London. Photograph. Matt Dunham.AP]