Seb Wheeler: The kettle contained the people, but it won’t contain the cause
A fortnight ago, the police were outnumbered and outgunned, leaving the scene with both egos and colleagues injured. It was clear they wouldn’t be making the same mistake again, and there was no chance of a repeat ‘Battle of Milbank’.
The demonstration was quickly contained, or ‘kettled’, and kept stagnant and cooled for hours. Some attempts to break out were successful, but most were met with vicious baton charges.
College students led the protest, demanding that their EMA be kept free from the cuts, but they were not experienced enough to foresee the trap that had been set. Once in the kettle, their frustration led to in-fighting and petty scrapping, rather than solidarity.
But whether they came for a day out of the classroom or were taking to the streets in a serious attempt to oppose the cuts, they did so in hordes and should be applauded.
Although the London demonstration may not have achieved as much as many had hoped for, it was refreshing to come home and find an estimated 130,000 students across England had taken part in effective actions.
Hard line policing may be back, but it will take more than the dread kettle to contain a student movement that is mobilising with gusto.
Germaine Arnold: Students’ short attention span proves their undoing
As the march reached Trafalgar Square at midday, chants could be heard all around criticising the coalition government’s proposed cuts. Two hours later however, the focus of the protest seemed to have been forgotten.
The unmanned police van, conveniently left in the middle of the containment area, worked wonders as a focal point for the violence. If it was indeed planted as a decoy, then it worked as easily as distracting a kitten with a ball of wool, and hundreds of protesters took the opportunity to down placards and indulge in petty criminal activity to get their kicks instead.
One noticeable difference between the crowds at the two protests is how many attendees arrived prepared with gloves, hoods and balaclavas. One sixth-former I spoke to on the march told me he had attended because he wanted to “smash something”, having missed out the week before at Millbank.
Cameron and Clegg must have been jumping for joy as once again, the fists of dissent, which screamed out from every news outlet, had silenced the voice of dissent. If a picture says a thousand words, then the damage done today will surely have shifted the sympathy of the public away from the plight of students yet further.
Charlie Cooper: A police cavalry charge in Whitehall
As Big Ben chimed eight o’clock on a very cold evening in Westminster yesterday, a strange scene was unfolding under the clock’s glowing face. A huddle of anxious parents had gathered at the end of Whitehall, mobile phones glued to the sides of their heads.
Standing between the parents and their children was a line of tall, broad, iron-faced police officers blocking the way into the street. Behind them were riot vans, and mounted police. Thousands of university and college students, along with schoolchildren, were contained by police on Parliament Street until late in the evening – cold, hungry and dying for the toilet.
Earlier in the day, mounted officers had led a charge of twenty horses into a crowd of hundreds of panicked people – most of them no older than sixteen or seventeen – who had been trying to join the main group of protesters.
A cavalry charge against schoolchildren down the concourse of Whitehall is not something I ever expected to see. For a few moments the crowd bolted in sheer terror. Some fell to the floor, others tried in vain to stand their ground, before the horses were reined in.
It was more than just a day off for the kids.