Demo 2012: A View From the Trenches

A load of angry lefties marched around London yesterday, here’s what Heather Kemp had to say about it all.

For yet another year, I find myself on a coach full of politically driven students, as well as a few media driven ones likes myself armed with cameras, dictaphones – or, if you’re me, a notepad and iPad.

Having woken before the sun has even risen, many are asleep and saving their energy for the long march ahead as once again, the NUS have organised a protest to overtake the streets of London. This year, the slogan for the march is “Educate. Employ. Empower”, although it seems as though the favourite chant of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” is already on the tip of the barely conscious students’ sleepy tongues.

An NUS Protester

Students from all over the UK are uniting to make sure the government, yet again, know that we are not happy and that it is their cost saving measures and future destroying decisions that have made us so. On this particular coach, Solent and University of Southampton students have already put their differences aside for one day to share a coach, their voices and their opinions.

The rain and cold were initially hampering to the spirits as we waited for the march to start, getting somewhat tired of the same speeches being blasted out by NUS representatives and students from different universities. Several attempts were made to rally together chants but after a while, even that got tiresome, so the enthusiasm and mood seemed to evaporate, unlike the rain.

I must confess one thing I saw which left me with very mixed feelings. Policemen littered the streets of London in hoards that I’m sure could easily have matched student numbers. Now, given the incidents two years ago, a sense of paranoia is understandable, however when a physical barricade of police was changed to that of police vans I began to feel highly insulted rather than safe.

Some of the MANY police lined up on London's streets

However, once the march finally commenced, the energy came back into the air. Although many different chants were being sung, there were a lot of voices united to proclaim the students’ discontent and hatred for Clegg and Cameron. Many of the chants were similar to those of two years ago, but this time with a few variations depending which people you were standing near.

 “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”

 “Light a bonfire, light a bonfire, put the Tories on the top.

Put the Lib Dems in the middle and we’ll burn the f****** lot.”

 “Education for the masses

Not just for the upper classes/pompous asses”

 “Bring back EMA

Take it from the bankers/w******/Cameron’s pay”

 “I say Lib Dem, you say Tory,

I say Tory you, say scum”

Once the protest reached Parliament, all the students converged together and shouted at the old stone walls, attracting the attention of a few curtain twitchers inside. Whether the high and mighty inside could hear us or not will be found out during the PM’s questions…

Despite the riot of 2 years ago, this time all students merely verbalised their discontent. However, slightly further up the road to the building, a group of Palestine protesters jumped on some police officers and began attacking them.

Video courtesy of SonarTV

Despite this momentary non-student related scene, after about an hour all the students were escorted over the bridge to move onto Kennington Gardens where we had more professional speakers and inspirational speeches. Although this was a very positive note to end on, I must admit that given the weather and choice of outdoor venue, most of us were too busy to fully concentrate, wanting instead to get warm and dry (as well as to check our equipment wasn’t swimming).

For an overall account of the day, I am pleased to say that it was altogether peaceful (from the students at least), so making the headlines at last will be for a good reason.

I honestly can’t say if I believe that our protest will have made any difference since there were other causes marching as well – although we easily outmatched them in terms of both number and witty signs. However, we certainly proved that protests don’t always lead to large scale violence, so maybe next time, Mr Cameron, do one of your infamous cuts to spending and step down the number of police officers.

NUS Protest