Hundreds join the march at Glasgow Uni (photo: glasgow uni src)
Today’s massive student protests represented the first nationally co-ordinated days of action against Tory cuts and austerity.
Across the country, students walked out of class, went into occupation and took to the streets to show their opposition to the government’s plans to wreck the education system as we know it, through huge cuts to schools and unis, and an effective tripling of tuition fees.
Building from the momentum of November 10th, when 50,000 marched in London, today’s actions were incessantly hyped up in the media, with near daily reminders in the press that violent gangs of “anarchists” were about to descend on YOUR TOWN CENTRE, GREAT BRITAIN!! Sure enough, the media got their exciting riots (and they could even put the GIRLS AND CHILDREN angle on it this time too!), when the main London demo was brutally attacked by riot cops, who all too conveniently abandoned a police van amid the student hordes, providing neat justification for their savage “counter-attack”. Leftie Labour MP John McDonnell has laid bare what happened: “There was no violence whatsoever but the police surged and pushed them into a tight corner, putting people in danger of being hurt. It was a peaceful and good-humoured march and the police should have respected that but no they have provoked anger.”
Although this stole the headlines, elsewhere tens of thousands marched across the country. In Scotland, the main demos were held in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries, but news of spontaneous walk-outs at schools and colleges across the country is continuing to filter in.
In Glasgow, the walk-outs began at 12 noon. At Glasgow Uni, around 400 students were, completely unexpectedly, joined by 40 fourth year students from nearby Hyndland Secondary. The students held a lively march around the campus, culminating in a brief sit-in outside management offices. As news came in of mass occupations at the Glasgow School of Art and Strathclyde University – of 100 and 250 students respectively – we moved to march into town. Out of nowhere, dozens of cops emerged, penning us in. Fortunately, we were eventually allowed to march, going through Kelvingrove Park and Argyle Street to Charing Cross. The demo then joined up with the Art School students and they marched on to Strathclyde Uni, where the students remained in occupation of the Royal College building, with many more gathered on the street outside.
Students marching in Edinburgh (photo: eddie truman)
Unfortunately, this meant the Glasgow/Hyndland/Art School bloc didn’t stick around until 3pm at Buchanan Street, for when a call-out had gone out for school, college and uni students from across the city to assemble together. And due to some, ahem, complications involving the police over at Charing Cross, many of the organisers of the 3pm event were pre-occupied and unable to ensure a presence there. Understandably, though, most of the people on the march were keen to get to Strathclyde Uni, where we’d heard news of arrests and growing numbers of police and security.
As the police kettle around the protest grew, a small group including SSY members, broke off and occupied the City Chambers. Around 20 students and anti-cuts activists made it inside, but given their low numbers and the heavy police presence, it was decided to leave after a brief time.
At 5pm, the day of action culminated in a 700-strong rally in George Square, with a number of speakers from political parties and trade unions.
Elsewhere, around 300 students, joining with another 50 workers and claimants, marched on the Lib Dem offices in Edinburgh, holding a sit-down protest on the street outside. Later on, 200 of them went on to occupy a lecture theatre at Edinburgh Uni. They’re still in there now, and they’ve called a rally for 12 noon on Thursday outside the Appleton Tower – get down if you can!
In Dumfries, students from the Crichton Campus held a 200-strong protest, attracting loads of attention from the local media – pretty good for a town that has a uni student population of 650.
But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the day was the high school strikes, which had sprung up from nowhere over the past few days. SSY led the call at Glasgow student planning meetings last week for united action in the city centre – and to put out a call for school students to join us. Although this perhaps didn’t come to everything we’d envisaged today, the fact that the facebook event page for the 3pm mobilisation sparked student walk-outs across Scotland is surely enough to vindicate it.
school students rush to join the demo, edinburgh (photo: et)
What today’s events showed is that where, often individuals, did put out the call for a strike in their school, it worked. In many cases this was done with little more than facebook and word of mouth, and at just a few days notice. Yet dozens of pupils from Whitehill Secondary in Dennistoun, Lenzie Academy in East Dunbartonshire and the previously mentioned Hyndland Secondary – and they’re just the ones we know about – defied their school management to walk-out and join the city centre demos. Reports abound of school students being threatened with expulsions, letters being sent home, or banned from school activities.
The future is in safe hands, and there’s a whole winter of discontent to keep us going. Onwards!
Glasgow Uni Left Soc. are meeting on Thursday evening to discuss this and the way forward for the struggle… more here