Thousands of students to protest on Wednesday

Scenes in Millbank during the 2010 NUS demo. Pic: Tomas Jivanda

Students from across the UK will take to the streets this Wednesday for the first time in two years to protest against a range of government policies.

Around 10,000 students from across the UK are expected to attend the National Union of Students organised march and subsequent rally, branded Demo 2012, including groups from Goldsmiths and Queen Mary universities.

The last series of protests began in November 2010 with an NUS sanctioned march and focussed on campaigning against the raising of tuition fees and abolishment of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

The day was characterised by the storming of the Conservative Party headquarters on Millbank by students, including a small number from Goldsmiths.

The final demonstration took place in December when a law to create £9000 per year fees was passed by MPs, to the backdrop of violent clashes between police and protestors in Parliament Square.

Promoted under the tagline ‘Educate, Employ, Empower,’ this time around the focus is not on a specific act of Parliament. Instead organisers wish to highlight a variety of issues, including the lack of employment prospects for young people and a perceived lack of  support for students.

Liam Burns, president of NUS said: “The trebling of tuition fees and the abolition of the education maintenance allowance were both terrible public policy decisions which are coming to be seen as ever more problematic, and they risk making our society a far less fair place.

“Students are marching because they recognise that the policies being pursued by this government are not only hitting students hard, but also risk profoundly undermining opportunities for future generations to get the education that they deserve, and that our economy requires.”

The march will begin at 11am at Temple and will move along Embankment past the Houses of Parliament to a rally at Kennington Park at 2-3pm.

Goldsmiths students are meeting outside the Richard Hoggart Building at 10:30 am. Queen Mary students are planning to meet in the union building’s student hub at 10 am.

Echoing the NUS and Burns, Goldsmiths are marching under the banner: ‘Many reasons to be angry – a day to unite the fights.’

Soren Goard, Students’ Union Education Officer is leading the Goldsmiths contingent. He sees the protest as a way of uniting activism against wider cuts and reigniting the student movement.

He said: “Students have politically matured in the their understanding of the processes of parliament, its quite clear that the government doesn’t just listen to people.

“What’s important about this march is it is part of rebuilding the student movement: we’ve always got to remember that 2010 fee rise didn’t just pop out of nowhere.

“It’s clearer than ever before that students are part of wider society. Austerity is affecting everybody and we want as much as possible to link people up and see that we have a shared interest in fighting it together. If there’s going to be more cuts we need to be well organised.”

Ellen Kiely, Vice President for welfare at Queen Mary Students Union, maintains that the challenge to £9000 fees should not be forgotten.

She told Eastlondonlines: “Queen Mary Students Union have asked students to march for three main reasons, £9000 tuition fees, cuts and restructuring on their course and unfair restrictions on international students.

“There are many reasons why students should march and if you want to make a change it’s a good place to start.”

During the last round of protests the police used controversial tactics including kettling school children in freezing conditions, horse charges and a widespread use of truncheons.

Goard said: “The scenes in Parliament Square were definitely provoked by police, the police operation was designed to intimidate protestors and brutalise them in order to delegitimise the movement, provoke students into fighting back and to stop them from coming out on the street again.

“We need to defend the right to protest and you don’t defend the right to protest by changing your campaigns, you defend the right to protest by protesting.”

A number of high profile incidents that involved a minority of protesters caught the media’s attention two years ago. These included a fire extinguisher being thrown from the roof of Millbank and Prince Charles’ car being attacked.

NUS have said they have gone through rigorous planning with the police to ensure the march runs as smoothly as possible.

A Met Police spokesperson told ELL: “There will be an appropriate and flexible policing plan in place.”

You will be able to follow the demonstration through the ELL live blog and twitter feed. The twitter hashtag is #Demo2012.

Below is a map of the route:

View NUS Demo 2012 in a larger map

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