Nov 30, 2010

Student Protests - Part 3

Today, in England, saw the third wave of nationwide student protests against the plans to triple tuition fees.

Despite freezing weather thousands of university students, sixth formers and even younger secondary school students took to the streets. Unlike the previous two protests today's have been relatively peaceful with only a few minor problems such as the London protest deviating from the route agreed with police, clashes with police as they tried to forcefully clear Trafalgar Square at nightfall, and a number of scuffles at Bristol University. A large number of protests took the form of occupations of certain university rooms or buildings, with up to 32 still being occupied since the second round of protests last week.

There were chaotic scenes in London when 4,000 students marching towards parliament attempted to evade what they believed were police trying to 'kettle' them by dispersing across the city in separate marches, causing trouble for police attempting to control protests. The Met denied intentions to 'kettle' protesters despite the presence of metal barriers and rows of police officers along Whitehall. Instead, they blamed the protesters for all the confusion by beginning the march at an earlier than planned time.

Others marches in the country were more peaceful. In Newcastle students occupying a university building marched through the city centre peacefully with Northumbria police saying they had "nothing but praise" for the protesters with "no arrests and no reports of any trouble of any kind". Similarly peaceful protests took place in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Belfast and Nottingham. There were some troubles in Brighton after 600 protesters marching through the city attempted to force their way into Hove town hall before 100 scaled the roof of a car park and proceeded to throw missiles at police. However, no arrests were made. Students in Liverpool also scaled a roof, with two arrests made. In Birmingham around 40 protesters stormed a council hall building, prompting a stand-off with security and police - Leeds and Oxford saw similar events. Bristol also saw troubles as 1,000 protesters lit flares and marched through the city, ending in ten arrests and the M32 being closed then the march seemed to be heading towards the motorway.

The scale and spread of protests this month has shocked authorities who fear movements against various government cuts could spread. There are further marches planned for the 9th and 11th of December, and again on the day the vote on tuition fees takes place (rumoured to be mid December).

I have strong feelings against the rise in tuition fees but unfortunately have had little chance to take part in any of the protests held so far. I understand that a rise may be necessary but I see tripling them as far too unacceptable even if you don't start repaying the debts until you start earning £21,000. I can only hope that the frequent protests will get to MP's (in particular those slimy Lib Dems) by the time the vote takes place and convince them to vote against the rise.

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