Around 10,000 people turned out on Wednesday 4th November to protest peaceful against the rise of tuition fees for higher education, chanting “grants not debt.”
This has come after George Osborne has announced the scrapping of maintenance grants for university students next autumn. This will effect the poorest students the most, as under this new scheme they will no longer get any financial help from the government in terms of grants.
People started to arrive around 11am to help hand out placards, leaflets and to just generally mill around and talk to one another. The atmosphere was buzzing, the air full of anticipation, and the organisers seemed hopeful that it would be peaceful and beneficial for students and those supporting students to have their voice.
Joined by Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell, he gave a motivational speech to the crowds before the march, accusing the government of ‘betraying students.’ Everyone cheered and (slightly later than planned) we were off.
This is the first time political parties have supported students anger through protests, with Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, also joining the walk.
After walking around what felt like the whole of London, we arrived at Downing Street. Suddenly everyone stopped and there was a small stampede to get as close of possible to the gates. But nothing kicked off, everyone just chanted and booed as loudly as possible whilst we were being watched through closed curtains of Number 10.
We weren’t there for long, and soon we were passing the houses of parliament, where the same thing happened, and again at the home office. Finally we stopped outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) building.
This is when things took a turn for the worst. Students were kettled in after smoke bombs were directed at the surrounding police. At least 12 protestors have been arrested, but no one has been harmed.
I was lucky enough to get out before it all kicked off. The atmosphere whilst I was there was insane, in a good way, and I loved every minute of it. Everyone who was there that I met were passionate about change and it gave me a refreshed outlook on world. I am excited about the fact people are not just ready for change, but are ready to fight for it.
For more, go to https://protestreporters.wordpress.com/ where I reported on the event with a team of friends for my university.