Thousands of students and workers marched through London and Manchester on Saturday to protest against student fees, education cuts and the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Some 8,000 marched in London. Members of the UCU, CWU, PCS, NUT, Unite, Unison and GMB unions joined them, showing how the movement that exploded at the end of last year has inspired workers.
Ahsen, a year 11 school student from Crouch End in north London, told Socialist Worker, “It makes me angry that we have to pay for education, while the rich don’t have to pay their taxes.
“We can change government policy—I believe that if we put on enough pressure we can break the coalition.”
Protesters were buoyed by the revolution in Tunisia and the uprising in Egypt. Chants of “One, two! One, two, three! We’ll bring you down like Ben Ali!” rang out through the demo.
Some stopped in Parliament Square, but the majority marched on, holding a brief sit-in on the road before continuing to Tory HQ at Millbank Tower.
The police did not want a repeat of 10 November, when students stormed the building. They grabbed and shoved those who attempted to get into the courtyard.
But Millbank was not to be the focus. Thousands marched on to the Egyptian embassy.
As they joined hundreds already protesting there, a huge cheer went up from both crowds.
Chant sheets in English and Arabic were handed out so that the newcomers could join in. Many people in the crowd joined together to shout “One solution—revolution”.
Ahmed, an PhD student from Egypt, told Socialist Worker, “A lot has changed—people are gathering and speaking freely on the streets but we have a long way to go. Until Mubarak is removed, there can be no real change.”
Some protesters lit fires to keep warm, while others moved on to Oxford and Regent Street to target tax avoiding shops.
Saturday’s student march in Manchester also went its own way—despite stewards’ attempts to stop it.
Up to 4,000 joined the NUS and TUC-backed march from Manchester university to a park outside the city centre.
Workers from unions including Unison, NUT, PCS and UCU joined the protest.
Jenny was one of a group of youth workers from Manchester on the demo. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because of the cuts we face to services. Young people are having their futures stolen. It’s just not fair.”
Jemma from Barnsley College added, “This is the first of the protests I’ve been on. They are cutting my EMA.
“It costs nothing compared to what they spend on arms—the government needs to get its priorities straight.”
NUS president Aaron Porter was chased off the march by young people angry at him for condemning previous protests as “violent”.
Police escorted Porter away from a group of students shouting “Aaron Porter sold us out” and “You’re a fucking Tory too”.
In a sign of the continued vitality of the student movement many protesters decided they wanted more direct action and rather less speeches.
Around half the protesters broke away part-way through the rally to march back towards Manchester city centre.