‘FREE Education Now!’ chanted over 10,000 students on a march through central London to Parliament yesterday.
Demonstrators from all over Britain also shouted: ‘Workers and students Unite and Fight’. Lots of placards said ‘Free Education – Tax the Rich’.
A lively delegation of Young Socialists won support for their demands: ‘Stop Cuts and Closures – Kick this government Out! Smash Tuition Fees – Restore Free Education! and ‘From the River to the Sea – Palestine will be Free!’
Some of the youth spoke to News Line before they set off from outside the University of London Union, in Malet Street.
There were scuffles with the police when many students climbed over barricades and several hundred occupied Parliament Square.
Alasdair Ibbotson, from Stirling University CND group, said: ‘We say fund education, not Trident. We have come here today because the government wants to spend £100m on new nuclear weapons.
‘This is when last year, one million Britons used a food bank at least once, and students are being made to pay thousands of pounds in tuition fees.
‘Education can build a better tomorrow, nuclear weapons can’t. The trade unions should support students.’
Many students were angry that the National Union of Students had withdrawn its backing from the march.
Tom Perry from Norwich, a third year student from University of East Anglia, said: ‘I believe in free education. I’m from a less well-off background, so I’ll be less likely to pay off my loan. This makes me angry, I think it’s unfair.
‘The working class should have the right to be educated.’ He added: ‘The NUS should be supporting movements like this and not just have gesture politics. The TUC should support students, because they will be the future workforce.’
Hannah Hutchins, a second year student at London College of Communication, was photographing the event for her university magazine. She said: ‘I’m against fees. I’m facing about £45,000 debt when I leave – that’s three years of tuition fees at £9000 a year, and then a loan of £1,500 per term.
‘Also I think degree standards have been lowered and some students are having to be interns before leaving university to get some experience.’
She added: ‘The NUS should be supporting this march. The trade unions should support students because they are going to be part of the workforce. Four years ago students were kettled by police. The unions should have taken action then.’
James McAsh, an Edinburgh University graduate now living in London, said: ‘This cabinet of millionaires are crippling us students with debt, while lining the pockets of their mates in big business.
‘As a graduate, I’ve loads of debt and it took me ages to find a job. Students and the labour movement have a history of working together and that needs to be intensified.’
George Smith, a second year student from Staffordshire University, said: ‘I’m against limiting social mobility. Fees put off working class youth from going to university. The NUS should be more supportive of its members.
‘The trade unions and the TUC should be supporting students. We should all collectivise and work together. That’s the way you’re going to change things.’