Diary of a protester

Alistair Farrow, 23 is a Politics and International Relations student at Kingston and is also a member of the Socialist Worker’s Party.  He attended the protest in Central London on Wednesday.What happened that day at Millbank Tower was an organic, instinctive response to the cuts that the government is forcing upon students.  I was one of the first of a handful of protesters to walk inside the building, as at that early stage there was no security on the doors and only a small police presence. 

Following our choice to go inside, we were basically trapped inside the building by police and security inside the lobby.  They cut us off from the people outside and as a result we tried to push our way out.  That was when police began using force and started hitting us with batons.  One woman from Kingston was hit and it was this initial act of aggression that sparked off the student response.  I wouldn’t compare breaking a window to hitting somebody with a truncheon and the phrase ‘student violence’ doesn’t properly represent what happened.

After around twenty minutes, we were allowed back outside and went to find our lecturers nearby.  Once we went back to the tower, there were people on the roof, the windows had been smashed and the building was occupied by protesters.  It was stupid to have Tory HQ on the route of the march and you could see the police getting nervous about this as we neared the tower.

I believe that this reaction from students towards Tory HQ took place as it is a symbolic embodiment of what we are angry about.  I don’t feel it is fair to suggest that anarchists are responsible as many people in the building were not simply the usual suspects but just normal students.  It has been said by the media that this was a minority group, but there were around 5,000 people at Millbank, not all “anarchists and idiots” as was suggested by one Tory after the event.

I think students certainly have the right to be angry about what is happening within the education system at present, and the reaction of NUS president Aaron Porter shows no level of commitment towards the cause.  His denouncement of the response was disgraceful considering it is his role to represent our interests.  To condemn all who were involved at Millbank is unfair, particularly as, when you look at the police’s support of one another during times when they use violence against the public, the NUS’s lack of commitment to us differs so greatly.  Aaron Porter has proved himself to be essentially out of touch with the strength of feeling among students. 

As a Socialist, I feel that the media response to the march is a typical capitalist response; so much was made of the violence while the real issue of a crisis within education were widely ignored.  There will be redundancies at Kingston University as well as throughout the country and these facts affect us directly and so should be focused on. 

It has been said that this march represented more than just anger at a rise in tuition fees and more about a political system that does not represent people fairly.  I feel that many of these issues are fairly synonymous and we can draw conclusions that politics in general has let us down.  David Cameron and Nick Clegg are following practices that have been around for centuries and so I think it is important to blame the system rather than the individuals.  Politicians are complicit but not responsible for this crisis, as these cuts plainly benefit capitalism. 

Hopefully, we will see that direct action creates change, and while I do not condone the violence that ensued at Millbank Tower, I do hope that the end justifies the means in this instance.  Had the process remained entirely peaceful, there is a danger that there would have been merely a congratulatory response from the NUS and this would soon have been old news. 

I intend to attend the March planned for the 24th November in Kingston and around the country that will coincide with an MP vote on whether or not to increase tuition fees.  This is nearby, and directly affects us all so I would urge students to get involved and work for change. 

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