2010, November 10th, London: remember that date. Today was the biggest student demonstration seen in London in twenty years, 52,000 students, and I was proud to be a part of it. What were we fighting for? The right for younger generations to attend higher education. Education is for everyone, not just the rich. If the Tories want to keep out the poorer people of society, they will have many to answer to, as proven today.
Our coach pulled up at Whitehall around 11:30 and we were raring to go. The street was already packed with people, banners and the invigorating sound of chants against cuts. Mitch and her boyfriend (Phil) are familiar with the rally scene, shall we say, and we instantly snuck away to join the Pompey squad and their megaphone. It’s alright, we know them. We didn’t just gatecrash their group.
We wove our way right up to where the speeches were being made, surrounded by the incredible architecture of Whitehall, inventive slogans (or slanders) and Socialist Workers flaunting their newspaper. Being a person who is vertically challenged, I never saw the speakers and their microphone quality was awful, so we barely understood a word that was said; but the passion of each sentence was most definitely not lost. I couldn’t help but cheer with the crowd every so often or make ‘Native American Indian calls’. Someone up there was pissed off and so were we.
After the rawr, rawr speeches: on we marched! Phil has probably killed his voice with all the rallying he did without a megaphone today. I was quite impressed. He and the Pompey leader bellowed out chants that many around us were inclined to join in with. Here are some of the chants today, mostly those that were my favourites:
“Phil: They say cut back.
Crowd: We say fight back!
Phil: Cut, cut, cut back.
Crowd: Fight, fight, fight back!”
“Nick, Nick, get of Cameron’s dick!”
“Nick Clegg, we know you, you’re a fucking Tory too.”
“No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”
“Build a bonfire, build a bonfire,
Put the Toooories on the top,
Put the Lib Dems in the middle,
And we’ll buuurn the fuckin lot!”
“Tory scum, GET. OUT. We know what you’re all about.
Cuts. Job losses. Money for the bosses.”
“1, 2, 3, 4,
Nick Clegg is a whore.
5, 6, 7, 8,
He can’t keep his back straight.”
There were many more and all were creative. Three banners I must mention read as: “Dumbledoor’s Army”, “Hogwarts is FREE” and “Nick Clegg I fucked your mum”. I don’t know about you but those certainly make me smile.
So yes, down Parliament Street we marched. People towered above me waving their signs, and it felt amazing to be united in voice with so many. The BBC and other news helicopters circled above the buildings and reporters lined the streets. One woman even thrust a microphone in my face and proceeded to question me. I was slightly intimidated by the huge film camera that was on her co-worker’s shoulder, but she adamantly walked along in front of us, camera trained on mine and Mitch’s face. I’m quite an opinionated person, I won’t lie, but the one chance I get to voice my views and all my prepared statements for the day vanished. Luckily I had Mitch and a friend to jump in with helpful comments, not that I remembered my prepared statements until after the woman disappeared. Typical.
When we reached the houses of parliament we of course joined the sit-in! One of the group leaders with his megaphone was inspiring. In one shout out he managed to make twenty people join the sit-in. He must have been only eighteen and looked like a chimney-sweep, it was kind of adorable. The street gradually filled, blocking off most of the walk-way and spreading back an exciting distance. It didn’t turn out to be that great of a sit-in in the end, but we tried. The only reason Mitch and I left was to join an alleged (though fictional) larger sit-in right outside the parliament steps. A few men leaving the building walked past us however, and Phil thrust the Socialist Workers newspaper at them saying, “Would you like to buy Socialist paper, sir?” Oh man, that was hilarious.
As we trundled on down Millback Road (yup, still chanting and singing) we found ourselves charging into what would become the most talked about event on the news.
We had found the Tory HQ.
Squeezing into the centre of the so far accumulated students and anarchists and whoever the heck else was there, we knew we were in the midst of the action. A bonfire had been lit not far to our left using banners and a large burnable doll of ‘David Cameron‘ was passed through the crowd. Our voices echoed, I tell you, they vibrated off the glass walls. Mitch and I constantly gave each other faces of disbelief, joy and excitement. We were united. Our chants rarely ceased.
Admittedly, we watched in awe as the anarchists smashed through the ground floor window and proceeded to pour into the building. Ten minutes later and they were waving down at the crowd from the roof top. I realise that from TV footage and news reports, it doesn’t look good, but when you’re actually stood there pumped with energy, adamant that your voice will be heard, “NO CUTS,” it was a brilliant moment. They waved down to us lining the railing with their flags, and it truly felt as if we were sticking our middle finger up at government.
Flares were lit and a boom-box started playing outside the courtyard loud enough for us to hear. For a few moments it was like being at a gig, I tell you, but power-to-the-people-like. I was almost given a go at shouting into the megaphone, but the crowd overpowered us with another chant! Plants were ripped up and passed over the crowd, showering one poor girl next to me in soil; though she found it amusing. We could see the reflection of four hovering helicopters in the building’s surface and the air buzzed with success. It started to go a little downhill from there.
The anarchists inside found their way onto the second floor to look down at us before proceeding to almost smash three windows. For a moment I was worried they would pound until the glass fully splintered, because I knew that the glass would have rained down on those below. Luckily the windows were severely cracked and nothing more, so for the moment, few people in the crowd minded; me included. In fact, I thought, ‘fuck yeah we smashed their freakin windows!’
Not long after that, they found fire extinguishers and set them off over the railing which was oodles of fun. I got covered in foam, although Mitch got more of a dousing than I did! And then, to everyone’s horror, they threw a fire extinguisher over the railing and into the crowd. No one was injured, thank stars. We proceeded to ‘boo’ them, but Mitch knew it was time to escape.
Hand-in-hand, we struggled and squeezed our way out as the crowd chanted up, ‘stop throwing shit! Stop throwing shit!’ which was a relief to hear. The last glimpse I caught was of those on the roof throwing either books or newspapers off the roof – I’m not really sure which.
Once outside, we saw we had made the right decision as we spotted the riot police getting ready to crash the uprising. Off we trudged back to our bus (we may have got lost, although Mitch will say that Phil got us lost) and London is quite wonderful when the roads are empty of cars/tons of people. It didn’t last, of course.
Despite being stuck in TWO HOURS OF TRAFFIC – WTF? the end of the day was just as fulfilling. Our student union president gave a speech on all his antics and what more we can do to stand up against the cuts. Everyone had stories to tell. Though I fell asleep (bloody hell I am drained) I managed to hear that one girl from our group had snuck into the building, too. Just goes to show, the BBC talk shit. The students didn’t leave early; hello we were there for most of it! and some students, not just the anarchists (though I’m not exactly thrilled), even broke into the building.
And that, in as concise as possible a nutshell, is an account of this uni student’s day. If you’re planning on going to university, I went out for you today even though I may not know your name. I want you to have the education you have dreamed of, because I LOVE university. It is your right. “The people should not be afraid of the government; it is the government who should be afraid of the people.”
This is Suzuki Scribble signing off.
Pictures from demotix. I’ll be posting the pictures we took at a slightly later date 🙂