|Massive Student Protest In London|
With anger growing across the UK at the way that deficit reducing cuts are being targeted at the most vulnerable in society it was always likely that a massive student demonstration would provide a lightning rod for the building anger.
Student leaders and the police clearly worked together before this event to try to ensure a peaceful outcome but clearly both sides underestimated the potential for fringe anarchist groups and others to take advantage of the march.
As some marchers reached Millbank House , the Tory party headquarters, fringe elements in the crowd stormed the building, smashing windows and wrecking the entrance area. The few police who were on duty in that area were powerless to stop them. The anger of a larger group of students who might not have otherwise joined in such activity was clear and a large group of thousands of students milled around the building harassing the police and contributing to a general sense of disorder.
It was clear that for some students they had mixed feelings about the vandalism and damage. But as one student pointed out it was the media who had chosen to focus on the damage and not the larger peaceful element of the demonstration. Another student suggested that while they were not supportive of the action taken by a minority they realised that without such action there would have been nothing like the amount of media attention which the protests eventually received.
The violence reached a peak in the afternoon after a group of students occupied the roof of the building and pictures were shown of one or two throwing concrete and in one case a fire extinguisher down towards the police who were lined up below trying to prevent more of the crowd entering the building.
The students made their point loudly and clearly today. There is vast anger building at the way the ConDem government is targeting its program of cuts and students across the UK have laid down a marker that they are not going to take this without major protest. The violence and damage are unfortunate but have kept the student issue in the news the whole day. The present government would do well to think hard about the outcome of this protest because if they are not careful those who are being targeted by cuts will increasingly feel that their only resort is to engage in determined resistance and potentially damaging protest.
The only sensible way forward for student funding is a properly progressive graduate tax alongside proper levels of funding for the tertiary education sector.