Tens of thousands of students and youth marched from University of London Union (ULU) near Euston down to parliament yesterday lunchtime, shouting against the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s attacks on state education.
On several occasions police tried to form lines and kettle marchers to stop them and re-direct their route.
At Trafalgar Square, there were lines of mounted police and riot police preventing the marchers from proceeding down Whitehall and past Downing Street.
The marchers headed into the Mall and turned left into Horseguards, where again the police tried to form lines to prevent their progress.
But the huge numbers kept breaking through.
The march arrived at the edge of Parliament Square where there were hundreds of police and dozens of police vans preventing the march from either proceeding into the front of the Houses of Parliament or down the Victoria Embankment, where a rally with speakers, including TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, was due to be held.
By 2.00pm the marchers and supporters, up to 100,000-strong, were in Parliament Square, angrily shouting their slogans on the green.
Earlier, outside ULU, marchers heard speeches from several speakers.
John McDonnell MP said: ‘Education is a right, not a commodity and it should be free.
‘I also believe Members of Parliament and politicians should keep their promises.
‘We will maintain this campaign until we succeed.
‘If it means driving this government out of office, then so be it.’
Paul Mackney, former head of NATFHE (now the UCU), speaking on behalf of the Coalition of Resistance, said: ‘I went to university in 1968, with no fees and a full grant.
‘You have built a movement more powerful than in ’68.
‘They won’t be able to kettle the whole population.’
Alan Whittaker, the president of the UCU, said: ‘We salute your enthusiasm, energy and commitment and are right behind you in your justified fight.
‘I came out of university without a penny of debt.
‘I’m not prepared to stand by and see your generation suffering obscene levels of debt that it will take a lifetime to pay off.’
Tony Fearns, from the CWU, said: ‘The representatives of the international banking system are the real criminals.
‘Enough is enough. We won’t have it.
‘If fighting your cuts is a mob of students on the Mall, then we’re with you.
‘The trade union movement stands full square with you.’
Mark Burfield, from the Education Activist Network, said: ‘We have shown that strikes work.
‘This government is wavering and we can bring it down.
‘We will follow the example of our colleagues in France and Greece.
‘We’re not just fighting against fees, we are fighting for a different world.
‘Today we march to parliament, tomorrow we shut down the country.’
Clare Solomon, from ULU, said: ‘Today we march on parliament, we are exercising our democratic right.
‘We will not be kettled.’
There were numerous banners from universities and colleges across the country on the march and lots of placards.
Among the placards and banners were ones saying ‘Cut War not Welfare’, ‘Tories are the scum of the earth’, ‘Sussex University fighting for the future of education’, ‘David Thatcher – Education Snatcher’, ‘Oi, Tories, leave them kids alone’, Unison SOAS, RHUL Students Against Cuts, a PCS banner, and many, many more.
Many school students joined the march.
Fifteen year old Dilan Gurem, from Leyton, said: ‘We bunked school today because we have to fight.
‘All these years people have gone to university and now my generation is being cut off.
‘I’m wearing this badge “Bring the government down’’ and I actually mean it.
‘I’ve read the Education White Paper. It says they are going to get army soldiers, train them to become teachers, to have more discipline, which I think is absolutely bullshit.
‘Today is going to be a success, obviously, because we have so many young people getting together and uniting.’
Her friend, Tahir Khan, also from Leyton, said: ‘I was walking to school and my mate dragged me along and I happily came.
‘I don’t think it’s right we have to pay fees.
‘Everyone’s really angry, we’re going to get rid of this government.’
Another friend, Ozlem Simsek, aged 14, said: ‘It’s obviously affecting our future.
‘We don’t want to pay money for a decent education.
‘They need to stop the fees and cuts. I don’t get EMA yet, but I will need to in the future.
‘I hate this government for what they are doing to us.’
Mackenzie Jamieson, aged 14, said: ‘Eight or nine of us have come from the Bridge Academy in Hackney.
‘Our teachers are totally supportive.
‘We’re in Year 10 now and as soon as it comes in, if it does, depending upon today, we’re going to be the first ones hit.
‘It will cost us £27,000 for a three-year course, that’s a lot of money. It’s got to be beaten if it’s not going to provoke more protests and ultimately more violence.’
His friend, Olive Harty, aged 14, from the Bridge Academy, said: ‘If we can’t afford to study what we are passionate about, then what is the point and what happens to fine art and creative careers? There’s no money in it, so why study it?
‘Let’s bring the government down.’
Another friend, Afra Georgiou-Matson, aged 14, said: ‘This is my first demo. I want to go to university.
‘I don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life.
‘We have to bring the government down as quickly and painfully as possible to the detriment of them as much as possible too.’
Siobhan Bligh, a first year philosophy student from Sheffield University, said: ‘Not only does this tuition fees hike and this attack on our education have to be beaten, but privatisation has to be beaten too.
‘They are taking away all the hard work that people did after World War Two.’
Seventeen year old Strode’s College, Windsor, student Jessica Goldsmith said: ‘I’m going to university next year, so the raised fees won’t affect me.
‘But my two younger sisters are much cleverer than me and it’s not fair that they should have a worse education than me.’
Sam Harper, a history student at Sheffield Hallam University, said: ‘Today’s action is proof that this struggle is getting stronger and it’s not a phase, it’s a fight to the finish and education for all.’
Lisa McSweeney from SOAS Unison said: ‘Our jobs are under threat, if these cuts go through it will become very much a class divided system again.
‘We’ll go back at least 50 years and the right of education for all will become the right of education for a few.
‘I think the unions in this country are slow to strike but we have to have a general strike.’