Police Attack Sparks –As 10,000 Students March

A section of the 10,000-strong student march as it approached Trafalgar Square yesterday
A section of the 10,000-strong student march as it approached Trafalgar Square yesterday

Over 10,000 students and a number of trade unionists marched through central London yesterday against £9,000 fees, education cuts and privatisation.

The protest was organised by the National Campaign Against Cuts and Fees.’

Many were angered by the huge police presence and the threat of baton rounds (rubber bullets) being used.

The march was heavily policed with a line of mounted police followed by a line of yellow jacketed police, carrying riot helmets at the head of the march.

Riot vans and police in riot gear were at all major junctions along the route, with officers from West Midlands and Norfolk forces boosting Met Police numbers.

None of this could dampen the spirits of youth and a lively Young Socialists Students Society contingent won support for their slogans ‘No to tuition fees, restore free education!’, ‘Youth and workers unite, one struggle one fight!’ ‘No privatisation, kick the government out!’ ‘Make November 30 a general strike!’

Speaking to News Line as the march assembled in Malet Street, Robert Ungar from north London said: ‘I’m here to support the movement.

‘Why should we have to pay £9,000 just to get extra education?

‘The government are saying “give me everything you are going to earn or else you can’t do what you want to do”.’

Asked to comment on the threat of rubber bullets, Robert added: ‘It will only take one bullet for people who aren’t involved to see the police, who are meant to look after us, are actually attacking us.

‘All the unions should support the youth.’

Louis Thorburn was with a group from Portsmouth University.

He said: ‘We’re here to fight the cuts and privatisation of education and healthcare.

‘This country has a long tradition of welfare, the government is trying to chip away at this.

‘Education should be for everyone, it’s a right not a privilege.

Also commenting on the possible use of baton rounds, Louis added: ‘It is ridiculous. The government are treating the student protest in the same way as the August riots.

‘Cameron and Theresa May are trying to take a hard line on student protests.

‘If the police attack this march it will exacerbate the situation and provoke more violence all round.’

l Police drew their batons, and hit and ‘kettled’ electricians on their Day of Action against 35% pay cuts yesterday, when they tried to join up with the students protest in central London.

‘I got whacked over the back just for protecting a lady who fell over in the stampede, it’s disgusting behaviour,’ professional electrician and Unite member Paul Gilbert told News Line.

Over three thousand electricians took part in the Unite National Day of Action, called against a ‘cartel’ of employers who have announced they intend to tear up the longstanding Joint Industry Board (JIB) agreement on December 7th.

The Day of Action started with a rally at the Pinnacle, near Liverpool Street, followed by a second rally at the Shard, by London Bridge, then a march to the massive Balfour Beatty building site at Blackfriars Bridge.

But when the Unite leaders started to lead the march down to the Embankment towards Westminster to lobby MPs, the majority of the electricians headed in the opposite direction, down the Farringdon Road towards the students demonstration in the City.

Scores of police then charged down the road, pulling out their batons, wildly hitting out, tearing down banners and placards, and finally kettling about 100 of the protestings sparks.

Because there is a widespread blacklist in the industry, many sparks are reluctant to give their full name.

Bill told News Line: ‘All the police pulled their batons out and hit people with them. They don’t want us joining up with the students. Now it’s at a standstill.’

John said: ‘The police know there are 10,000 students down there. They know if they link up with us they would have an army to contend with.

‘They would have a lot of older fellows, not these 18-year-olds who don’t mind what they get up to. It would be an explosive force.

‘We don’t want to go down that route, but sometimes it takes something like that to change things.

‘We’re having our livelihoods taken away from us. How can I feed my kids on a third taken off my wages?’

Earlier, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey told the rally at London Bridge: ‘We will do whatever is necessary to ensure these attacks on you are defeated.

‘Today we’ve given notice to Balfour Beatty we will be balloting for official action from next Wednesday.’