Friday, December 10, 2010

Street Report of Student fees protests

SchNews gives the news....

The wave of student protests that sprang forth so vehemently on
11/11/10 faced its day of reckoning this Thursday (9th) as MPs huddled
in Parliament to decide on the future of education. Chaos was on the
menu as the tuition fees bill passed with a majority of 21 votes.

The crowds started congregating at 12 noon by the University of
London Union in Malet Street. The march stalled to hear speeches and
bold declarations such as 'We will not be detained, constrained
and kettled again!' just before heading towards Parliament
Square.

At 12.45 the march crossed the starting line, and police tried to nip
in early by containing the protesters at the first turn, helped by
stewards linking arms to control the crowd - but alas the kids gave
them the two finger salute and ran through the whole lot. 'Today
we won't be kettled because today we are prepared,' as one
protester put it.

There were scores of police lining each street and batches of riot
police waiting round each corner. Cops tried to run in front and form
a line but the youth ran faster and by 1.15 they had descended on
Trafalgar square in numbers, accompanied by the sounds of a salsa
band.

Protesters were stopped there but soon managed to break through. The
FIT team was shoved out the way by a rebellious posse. At this point
billows of coloured smoke surged through the air as the demonstrators
released flares and bangers. The feisty atmosphere became charged as
people reached the corner by Westminster Abbey. The harris fencing
surrounding the green got ripped apart and waves of the disgruntled
started cascading onto the legion of riot police protecting the
finishing line, batons at the ready.

Hundreds more police started approaching the square and each road
leading off from it was filled with a dozen riot vans. Flares, sticks,
snooker balls and paint balls flew across the square, placards were
set on fire as students hollored 'Fuck the cuts!' The
protesters started using barriers to break through police lines.
Scuffles erupted, leaving one officer with a bloody nosy while another
got sent to hospital with a broken leg. By 3.45pm a containment was in
place with peaceful demonstrators allowed to leave the space, but for
many that was easier said than done.

As the afternoon wore on a large sound system was in place and the
party started really bouncing - to a backdrop of hardcore,
protesters and riot police having it out on the street. The focus then
turned towards the Commons as voting time approached. In the distance
an outline of police horses could be seen standing ominously in wait
as dusk set in. The police line flowed back and forth as people kept
trying to break through their lines.

After the vote, angry protesters rampaged through the government
quarter, smashing telephone booths, vandalizing statues and breaking
government building windows.

By 6pm reports were coming through of many people getting injured as
police tactics took a turn towards the oppressive. Police marched
through docile crowds and shoved them violently backwards. The horses
were released towards the crowd. Two demonstrators were knocked
unconscious, another demonstrator on a wheelchair was dragged away by
police; minutes later the wheelchair was seen lying empty. A medical
steward passed on he treated at least 10 serious head injuries from
marchers being hit with police batons.

The next generation of possible voters then turned their attention to
the Treasury building, home to the Chancellor George Osborne, and let
loose. While contained inside the square, students started using
concrete blocks and metal poles to smash windows of the building on
Great George Street before the riot crew got in and reclaimed the
property. Windows of the supreme court were also put in.

Protests spread to the West End with demonstrators breaking shop
windows in Oxford Street. Police eventually surrounded a group of
around 150-200 people in Trafalgar Square, where fires were lit,
graffiti daubed on statues and missiles thrown at riot police. They
then moved on towards Marble Arch, attacking two Vodafone stores along
the way.

Elsewhere, at around 7.30pm, an angry mob attacked a vehicle they
thought contained a mediocre Tory candidate; instead they managed to
hit the negative media coverage jackpot by coming face to face with
Prince Charles and his bit on the side.

The stately window was cracked and the royal buggy was splashed with
paint. Cue the media's defining image.

By 9pm the protest seemed to be dwindling. Police attempted to clear
Parliament square by reopening Westminster Bridge to the South Bank.
They had apparently been letting protesters out one by one but felt
the area (perhaps unsurprisingly) was not clearing quickly enough. The
police made 22 arrests in total with scores injured. There were also
protests in Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Belfast, Brighton,
Manchester and Bristol, with school pupils joining students.

* See www.anticuts.com



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