100,000 Demand Smash Fees!

‘Smash fees, restore grants, bring the government down’ shouted YS Manchester to London marchers, winning big support
‘Smash fees, restore grants, bring the government down’ shouted YS Manchester to London marchers, winning big support

OVER 100,000 students, lecturers and college youth filled the streets of Westminster yesterday, in a massive demonstration against the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s announcement of £9,000 a year tuition fees.

They also demonstrated their opposition to the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and warned that students were being made to pay the price for savage cuts in education funding, with masses of young people unable to afford further and higher education any longer.

The Young Socialists March for Jobs and Free State Education came down to London for the day to join the mass march, called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU).

They gave out leaflets urging everyone to join them when they finish their march from Manchester at Queen Mary University, east London, on Sunday November 21, and they got a great reception from students.

Hundreds of students laid siege to the Tory party headquarters in Millbank Tower yesterday afternoon, while others managed to make their way to the roof where they unfurled a banner.

This was after a rally at nearby Tate Britain organised by NUS and UCU leaders.

‘This government will not be able to take advantage of us any longer,’ the NUS President Aaron Porter told the rally.

To deafening cheers he announced that ‘colleges, universities, towns and cities from the four corners of the United Kingdom are represented here today.

‘Countrywide we have come together to defend our education system and we are in the fight of our lives.’

He said the NUS was initiating ‘a right to recall to face the voters’ for MPs who break their promises, condemning Lib Dem leader Clegg for forming a coalition with the Tories to treble tuition fees from £3,000 a year to £9,000 a year, after promising in the election to abolish them.

Students were wearing T-shirts saying ‘No Lib Dem Con’ and soon Whitehall was flooded with a sea of placards, banners and flags from the NUS, UCU, GMB and Unison.

‘We will fight this to the very end,’ said Porter, who made no explicit call for the abolition of tuition fees, after warning of ‘barbaric cuts that would barbarise our colleges and universities’.

Frances O’Grady, deputy-general secretary of the TUC, brought a message of ‘solidarity’ to the march and declared: ‘You are not alone. You’ve got seven million workers with you! Workers, students, NUS and TUC, are one, united.’

Coachloads of students kept on arriving and the rally at Tate Britain was told that students were still setting off from Whitehall.

Riot police were later sent to Millbank.

The march assembled near Trafalgar Square and went past Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament.

As the march was assembling, students from Roehampton University unveiled a giant banner and Maison Sawyer, 20, said: ‘We’ve got about 200 people come from Roehampton all on the train today and we’re for the abolition of all tuition fees. Education must be free.’

Dawn Norton and Rachel Sinclair, from Adam Smith College in Fife, said scrapping EMA for college students would force many to give up their studies.

‘A coach load have come down from our college,’ said Dawn, ‘there’s coaches come down from all over Scotland.’

Charlie Hamon, who was with a big contingent from Plymouth University, said: ‘I’m from Jersey and we pay £7,000 a year already, even though we’re classed as British citizens.’

Suzy Bromley, another Plymouth student, said: ‘I think it’s ridiculous what we pay now. We get nothing. I think we should have free university like Scotland.’