Samba bands and sound systems led the way to the heart of the financial district today, as students gathered in London to protest the HE White Paper.
“We’re here to fight against the education white paper. It will marketise our education and devalue our knowledge”, said a student on the demonstration. “All the courses which produce good in our society will lose funding – the history courses, the literature courses.”
The burning anger demonstrated in last year’s student revolts, it seems, is still alive and well. Aaron Kiely, of the NUS Black Student’s Campaign, spoke about the ‘absolutely devasting impact of education cuts on black people in the UK – especially black students. It’s incredibly important that we’re making a stand and taking our fight to the government over it.’ And Estelle Hart, NUS Women’s Officer, discussed the disproportionate impact cuts would have on women students. “Every single cut to education is doubly damaging to women. The courses women study, the services they use – they’re the ones being cut first on campuses”.
Concerns had been raised by activists and human rights groups over the authorisation of rubber bullets as police dispersal tactics for today’s demonstration. Jody McIntyre, an activist who was famously dragged from his wheelchair by police in last year’s student protests, expressed his disgust. “At a time when our government is propping up a racist political elite in Libya, our own police force is threatening to use plastic bullets here. Previously they only ever used this weapon on children in Northern Ireland; now they’re using it on children in this country too.”
Despite occasional attacks on protesters by the police – including a Stop the War photographer being pushed over and assaulted – rubber bullets were not deployed.
Speakers throughout the closing rally drew attention to the co-ordinated public sector strikes on November 30th as the next focal point for students, and urged attendees of the march to protest on the day.