Up to 1,000 people are being held on Westminster Bridge in a police kettle. The protesters includes school students, some as young as 15. They are singing songs and chanting, but are being held surrounded by riot police on the middle of the bridge with no indication when they will be allowed to leave.
Oxford Street protesters attacking Topshop – owned by tax dodger Sir Phillip Green. Windows smashed.
Protest in Leeds tomorrow (Friday) as David Cameron speaks at Shine Centre. Meet 12.15pm at Harehills Road opposite Banstead Park.
protesters attacking Supreme Court.
Car containing Prince Charles and Camilla stopped and kicked by protesters on Regent Street.
Up to a 1,000 students are marching down Oxford Street, chanting 'General strike now'
'Utter chaos,' says the BBC correspondent Ben Brown describing a 'battle ground outside the Treasury'. A student pulled open a window at the treasury, cop lunged out with a baton and the student grabbed it and held it aloft to roars from the crowd. Fireworks are now being thrown into the Treasury while people chant 'We want our money back!'
There is now a sizeable demonstration on Oxford Street.
Students are trying to ram their way through the doors of the Treasury, chanting 'One solution, revolution'. Earlier police charged and knocked a woman to the ground and then laid into her with a baton. Police attacked protesters, were trapped in the middle of the crowd and then struck out furiously.
Students are breaking windows at the Treasury.
Students fighting back against police in Whitehall. Students still occupying room in National Gallery – and forming an artists' manifesto.
The student protests very nearly defeated the coalition less than six months into its rule.
MPs voted by 323 to 302 to allow fees to rise to up to £9,000 a year. A coalition majority of 80 fell to 21.
This is not the end of the protests, it is the beginning of a new phase of protest. Students, their parents and many, many workers will feel a deeper and more bitter anger after today.
A government of millionaires and tax dodgers’ friends has wrecked the future of millions of young people. It wants to move on to do the same for those who rely on Education Maintenance Allowance.
A policy based on lies and class power, which the Lib Dems specifically pledged not to introduce, is being pushed through in the shadow of mounted police charging students and officers lashing out with their truncheons. They seriously injured some demonstrators and could easily have killed people.
What a travesty of democracy!
The police complain that students “diverged from the route”. But it was the police who spent hours attacking wholly peaceful protesters.
The government “winning” a vote is not the end of the matter.
The main protests over Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax in the 1980s and 1990 took place after the law was passed—and our side won.
In France in 2006 the government pushed through the CPE law aimed at slashing young workers’ employment rights. It was met with huge youth mobilizations, but was voted through parliament.
But then the revolt spread to workers inspired by the young people’s fightback.
After another month of strikes and mass mobilisations the government withdrew the law.
The political crisis of the Coalition will be worse after this vote. The Lib Dems voted four different ways, and even some Tories rebelled! They can all feel the hot breath of the voters on their necks.
One protester after the vote was announced said, “A few months ago I was in Parliament Square trying to get the Lib Dems into government on the Lib Dem flash mobs. Now I’m here trying to get them out.”
Such feelings will get stronger.
Now it’s time to prepare for the next round of protests, to build for occupations, to strengthen the unity of university, college and school students—and to make links with workers.
Cameron and Clegg were pushed to the edge tonight. Stepping up the battle can bring them down.
Protesters have occupied the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.
Coalition wins the vote on raising fees to £9,000 by 323 votes to 302.
Police have directed people to Whitehall to leave and then have charged them repeatedly with shields and horses. A sound system is blaring out 'Dancing in the Moonlight'. Cops are charging protesters. People are shouting 'Get that animal off that horse'.
A thousand people are now rushing down Whitehall and have broken through the kettle to join the demonstration in Parliament Square.
Maude, a UCL occupier, says 'I've seen five people injured. One had a heavily bleeding head and bandages all around his eyes. He was carried out on a stretcher. If the vote goes through we'll regroup and come back. French students and workers got a law repealed, we can too.'
A group of workers have joined the protest with GMB union flags.
Jessica from Strode’s College near Windsor was tow rows back from the front when police charged. She told Socialist Worker, “The police were vicious. People were crying because they could not breathe. There were people knocked on to the floor and the police were still pushing forward.”
Hundreds of demonstrators are now marching down to join the protesters kettled in Parliament Square from Victoria and other directions. There are now demonstrators trying to push through the police lines in Victoria Street.
There are about 20 people with Unite union flags in the square. Most work on the buses. One London bus worker told Socialist Worker, “We are here because it’s about our families and our kids’ futures. Bus workers work hard all year to support their children only to see their education taken away from them. This is a battle for everyone. We’re all going to be losing out under this government. We’ve either got to stand up now or roll over and die. There’s no future for anyone under Cameron.”
Repeated charges by mounted police into the crowd backed up by Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers. Police are carrying out a sustained assault on the students. A student from Manchester has had her collar bone broken by police. Her friend from Cambridge is nearby with her bag splattered in blood. But people remain defiant. Some are fighting back to defend themselves and their comrades.
Mounted police are charging into the crowd. Other police are lashing out with truncheons to push protesters back into Parliament Square from Victoria Street. One demonstrator has been seriously injured. The police are endangering lives. This is what democracy under the coalition looks like—a deeply unpopular policy, which Lib Dems had pledged explicitly not to carry out, is voted on while police try to smash those who want to make their voice heard.
Line of students linking arms to keep horses out of Parliament Square. Reports of police hitting people at front with shields.
In Glasgow there are some 400 protesting. The protest repeatedly broke police lines to avoid kettling. They demonstrated at Topshop and Vodaphone and are now blocking the road at George’s Square.
Three students have been removed from the public gallery of the House of Commons for chanting against the rise in fees. A number of Lib Dem MPS have refused to meet students who came to lobby them
The police are pressed up near the Houses of Parliament. Students have taken large parts of Parliament Square. There are tens of thousands on the protests. MPs are having to make their way through protesters in order to get into the Commons.
The police line has broken and they are retreating back to defend Parliament itself. Another group of students have just forced their way through fences to get into Parliament Square
Lines of police vans now drawn up to defend parliament.
A group of demonstrators have reached Parliament Square! They have defied the police barricades and the desperate attempts to keep them away from MPs. “It feels like part of London belongs to us,” says one demonstrator. “Now we’re going to let these corrupt MPs feel our anger.”
Around 200 students have joined a lively rally in Castle Square, Swansea. Most are from Swansea university and Swansea Metropolitan University.
Up to 1,000 students are marching in Newcastle. The demo blocked one of the main bridges across the Tyne. March moved back towards the city’s Monument but are now kettled near the Civic Centre. Protesters have also stormed a meeting held by the vice-chancellor.
According to a community worker who is in parliament for a conference about young people, the mood among MPs is tense and anxious.
“They are absolutely shitting themselves because of the anger in the conference and on the streets,” she told Socialist Worker.
“Groups of young people who are here keep asking them why they’ve betrayed the young—even the Boy Scouts delegation has attacked them.
“The sense among the MPs is that they are completely isolated and hated by everyone.”
The NUT group at Islington Sixth Form College has just voted unanimously to walk out in support of their students and join today’s protest.
Brian Munro is with a group of 25 RMT members with the Bakerloo branch banner. “We fighting cuts on the tube and the students have been an inspiration,” says Brian. We need to take on the government together.
“The students have been the spark this country needed.”
Several hundred students from Goldsmiths and South Bank have crossed Waterloo Bridge and are heading for the Strand. Among their numbers are a delegation from the RMT Eurostar branch with their banner, and a group from the London Woodcraft Folk with their banner.
Trish Lavelle, National Education officer for the CWU, is in Malet street, helping carry the union’s national banner, “It’s a duty for trade unionists to be here and make common cause with students fighting back. Our members are very buoyed up by the students—in sixth months the Tories have politicised a whole generation.”
Labour Party member, Jack Smith, is a student at King’s College London, “It’s not just a fight against fee rises, it’s for the future of education. If the vote goes through we’ll carry on campaigning. This is just the beginning.”
More voices from around ULU
Robert Buchanan an English teacher from London told Socialist Worker, “I’m a pacifist but at the same time, if we don’t have civil disobedience, the authorities won’t listen. This is social engineering, the Tories know what they are doing.”
A Soas student, Shadia said, “David Cameron do not underestimate the power of the people you will not silence us. We have a right to education and life. People young and old agree with us. We will continue to protest until you desist. This is not the end we shall overcome.”
Ben Okri—Booker prize winner said, “I believe today is a historic day. Today this country has turned a corner in spirit and you are turning that corner. You need to keep going. Take the dream to the farthest corners of this land.”
Tony Kearns from the CWU union told the the crowd, “I thought in Tony Blair I had seen the most dishonest politician. Then I met Nick Clegg.
“He says there is no choice. There is—it’s to tax Phillip Green and the Arcadia Group.
“This is an ideological attack on the poor and the education system and we are not going to have it. We need to build solidarity between workers and students. When Unite Against Fascism takes to streets to kick racists off streets you have to stand with them. The keyword is solidarity—fight back now.
Mark Bergfeld from the NUS executive said, “The last month has shown that students will not take the cuts we will take to the streets, strike and occupy. This government is wavering and we can bring it down. Today we have one task- to march to parliament— but tomorrow and in the coming months we won’t stop marching. This isn’t just about education it’s about fighting all the cuts and the Tories who want to destroy us. 50,000 students can block roads, millions of workers and students can bring the country to a halt.”
More speeches from the ULU rally:
John McDonnell MP told the crowd, “I’m here to say to Lib Dem MPs abstention is not an option. You may win vote today but this is not the end its the beginning.
If it means driving this government from office that’s what we will do. Solidarity!”
King’s lecturer, Jim Wolfreys said, “Since 10 November it’s become clear we are dealing with a tiny unrepresentative isolated minority prepared to do anything to achieve their ends—I’m talking about the government.
“They are trying to deny the right to protest to this movement because they are worried it will spread.
“This movement will carry on. They voted through the poll tax and people defied it and defeated it and got rid of Thatcher.
“We will continue to march we will continue to protest.
“We will talk to workers, trade unionists, and the unemployed. We need a general strike to bring this government down.”
Amy a sixth form student told the crowd, “They are the vandals we are the future”
Kanja Sesay NUS black students officer said, “There is an alternative—free education. Instead of destroying Afghanistan and destroying education they should be funding it. We should tell them were to stick it.”
James Haywood from Goldsmiths university in London, said, “Anyone who said Millbank was shameful is wrong. Look how the movement has grown.
“We should be proud of what we’ve been doing.
“We got arrested at Millbank and our NUS talked about our despicable behavior.
But what is despicable is behavior of police and the way they have kettled people for hours in freezing cold.
“As part of my bail conditions, I can’t be in City of Westminster—so I can’t march with you. But I ask you to take spirit of Millbank to government today”
Tasha Bell from Camden School for girls, brought a message of solidarity from her occupation. She said, “We occupied for 24 hours. Let’s show this government.”
Alan Whittaker, UCU president told the crowd, “Its a real privilege to be here today and see so many of you.
I bring greetings and solidarity from the UCU. We salute your enthusiasm, energy and commitmen—and we are behind you in your justified fight to stop this obscene increase in tuition fees.
“I came out of uni without a single penny of debt—the government paid it and I got a grant. I am not prepared to stand by and see today’s and tomorrow’s students leave uni with obscene level of debt that will take most of their lives to pay off.”
Steve Headley, the London regional organiser of the RMT union, has addressed thousands of students rallying outside ULU in Malet Street.
To loud applause he said, “The trade union movement stands 100 percent behind you.
“We not only need to bring down this government. We need to get rid of all neoliberal policies.
“I want to thank you for taking the lead in that fight. Onwards to victory.”
A delegation of railworkers has joined the demonstration in Malet Street, with the RMT union London Region banner and the RMT Bakerloo banner. Eddie Dempsey, a branch officer at Paddington No 1 RMT branch, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been supporting the students from the start. This is part of a wide attack on the working class, the poor and the disadvantaged.
“Students supported us on our picket lines and we’ve been visiting their occupations. This government has no mandate.”
The main march from LSE has now joined up with a march from King’s which is now twice the size.
A group of around 200 students from the LSE broke through police lines on the south side of Westminster Bridge and headed towards parliament. However, large numbers of riot police repelled them and most protesters have since rejoined the main march.
Large group from Latimer school north London, marched to mallet street from Euston station. They march across road in front of a taxi, with the driver grinning. Lots of car drivers hooting horns. Brandon a 6th a form student says, “People in the government got their education for free—now they are taking it away from us.”
Six or seven hundred students are marching from LSE to join the main march at ULU, behind the student union and UCU banners.
200 students and staff from City and Islington college on Camden Road and London Met and marching down Holloway Road towards parliament.
Thousands of students are assembling outside ULU on Malet Street in central London. A determined and angry crowd is holding impromptu meetings and rallies, as delegations from around the country arrive. Sheffield students are chanting, “They says cuts we say occupy.”
Catherine from Leytonstone is in her last year at sixth form college. She told Socialist Worker, “It’s ridiculous that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are doing this—they don’t have a right and they don’t have a mandate. Clegg would not have got votes if he had be honest.”
Bryony, from Liverpool, said: “We will die in debt. We won’t ever be able to pay it back. Education should be free. There are loads of us coming from Liverpool. Clegg is in this position coz of us students—its the end of the Lib Dems.
“Nick Clegg is a hypocrite. Students won’t trust politicians now.”
A group of ten students from Bridge Academy in east London came to the demonstration wearing homemade T-shirts attacking Nick Clegg as a liar.
Mackenzie told Socialist Worker, “We are the first generation to be hit by these cuts so we have to be here. Our teachers didn’t try stop us—they support us fighting for education.”
Students are coming to demand that MPs vote against the tripling of university fees. The vote in parliament is expected by 5.30pm today.
Coaches are converging on London from all over the country. Josh from Hull university, says, “There’s a really upbeat mood here. There are about 50 of us on the coach. Some people have come to lobby their MPs, but the majority have come to protest. A group from the Scarborough campus had to travel up and stay in Hull overnight to get the coach. And we’ve got ten FE students with us.”