Laurie Chen reports on the main events from today’s national student demonstration.
Thousands of students marched for free education and the abolition of maintenance grant cuts in today’s #GrantsNotDebt national demonstration organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC).
The rally started in Malet Place, near UCL, at 12pm with speeches from high-profile supporters including John McDonnell, shadow chancellor. It ended with several scuffles breaking out between protesters and police along the route, with at least 12 arrests having been made, including that of journalist Luke Gray.
Having marched peacefully through central London to the agreed rallying point outside the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, some activists started to throw smoke bombs and paint bombs at police and the surrounding offices.
In response, police formed a so-called “temporary containment” around a large group of several hundred student demonstrators which they denied was a kettle. After about half an hour, some activists managed to break free and sprinted down Victoria Street with several police officers in hot pursuit.
Afterwards, the protest broke off into several splinter groups, with one group marching beyond Victoria Station towards Vauxhall Bridge Road, where two arrests were made. Around 30 further protesters were contained near St James Square by police at 6pm, who were later released.
Following on from today’s events, a further day of action has been called for 17 November focusing on the treatment of international students, migrants and refugees.
The NCAFC today released a statement criticising ‘some of the most heavy-handed policing we have seen in recent years’. It continued:
Today witnessed one of the biggest and most vibrant student demonstrations in recent years. We have shown that this government’s attempts to attack the poorest in society – and the poorest students – will not go unanswered.
Jeremy Corbyn, opposition leader, has publicly endorsed the rally although he could not attend due to Prime Minister’s Questions. In the short speech made by John McDonnell shortly before the march set off, he said:
For generations now one generation has handed the baton to the next, and it’s our job to ensure that the next generation has a better quality of life than the last. This government is betraying you and future generations and I’m here in solidarity for education. Let me say this: your voice needs to be heard.
McDonnell and Corbyn were not the only high-profile figures to have shown their support for the cause: Natalie Bennett was also spotted marching in solidarity with student demonstrators.
Pi spoke to a few student protestors who were present at the demo. Finn Middleton, a final-year English student at UCL attended with their partner Charlie and Flo, a student at Camberwell College of Arts. They said: “We’re protesting for an elite-free education.”
Frank, a sixth-form student from London, said: “I’m protesting to regain hope for my future.”
Jess Glass, a student at Warwick who had travelled down especially for the occasion, said: “Education is a basic human right, costs shouldn’t come into it!”
You can find out more about the demonstration with PiTV‘s coverage:
Featured image credit: Sam Fearnley
Images: Sam Fearnley and Laurie Chen