12 Nov 2010

Student protests: more unrest to come

The student demo on Wednesday has “galvanised” university populations to fight tuition fee increases and there will be more protests, a Goldsmiths, University of London tutor tells Channel 4 News.

Students and lecturers expect more action after violent protests this week over tuition fees (Reuters).

The PHD student and tutor told Channel 4 News: “It has galvanised people. People are now planning to do other things – there’s a meeting on Monday about further campaigning.”

Her comments come after academics at Goldsmiths yesterday issued a statement which backed the protests.

“It was a really good natured but equally angry demonstration against the damage that the Coalition is doing to higher education,” the statement read. “Yes, that got out of hand, but yes, it also got media attention across the world.”

Watch: exclusive footage of the student protest shows the storming of Millbank 

The statement on the student protests was signed by John Wadsworth, the President of Goldsmiths lecturers’ union, and its secretary Des Freedman.

Downing Street branded the statement “irresponsible”, but the Goldsmiths tutor told Channel 4 News she was “proud” they had said it. She added that the mood of the protest had been generally “happy” and the majority of students at the protests were just pleased to be making a difference.

“It was not violence directed at a person,” she said. “The general consensus is that in terms of getting media attention, it did the job. But it is what happens next that will be most important – and I hope that will be more constructive.”

NUS calls for more action

NUS executive, Mark Bergfeld, told Channel 4 News Wednesday’s action was not the end of the dispute.

What are a few broken windows? The real vandals are sitting in the houses of parliament and in the Millbank towers. Mark Bergfeld, NUS

“I think the people who have been charged with aggravated trespass and criminal offences are falsely accused of doing so. What we saw on Wednesday was a lively, large and militant protest.

50,000 people in the streets – we haven’t seen this since the 1980s.

“People engaged with civil disobedience but rightly so, because the Tories and the Lib Dems are in cohort and want to damage our communities and our education.”

He added: “The students on Wednesday proved to the British public that we won’t take the cuts lying down but that we will fight.

“What are a few broken windows? The real vandals are sitting in the houses of parliament and in the Millibank towers.

“We’re fighting for each and every student out there. I believe we have the right to protest, we have the right to civil disobedience, we have the right to barricade our schools, to occupy our universities, to walk out of our colleges and go on strike. “

Student protest

On Wednesday, 52,000 people joined a march in protest against the Coalition’s plans to raise tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,000 a year. While the march was mainly peaceful, violence erupted around the Conservative Party headquarters in central London as students broke into the building and lit bonfires outside.

A 23-year-old man was arrested today on suspicion of throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Millbank Tower during the protests, Scotland Yard said.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has condemned the violence, but congratulated the peaceful protest on “the biggest demo in generations”.

NUS President Aaron Porter encouraged people to continue the campaign with emails, visiting MPs’ surgeries, and attending “activist development days” in Leicester and London.

There are also plans for a protest later this month where students would not attend lectures and academics would not teach, in a general walk-out.