Following recent events, students from across the country came out to protest against police brutality. Jamie Timson joined them on the streets to cover the days events for Pandeia.
More than 1,000 students, activists and academics marched across central London on Wednesday with the protest being hailed a success in its aims of keeping the police off campus. The demonstration passed smoothly, with very few incidents of anti-social behaviour and no arrests.
Organised using the #copsoffcampus hashtag, over 3,000 people were planning to attend according to various social media before the event. At 2pm a crowd amassed outside the University of London Student’s Union and were addressed by a number of speakers, one of whom Michael Chessum, had himself been arrested during a peaceful protest last month. Chessum said to the crowd: “This is a concerted crackdown on the student movement before it can get on its feet, we will not be intimidated. University management and the government are using the only argument they have left.”
The lack of organisers and a real route plan quickly became clear, and the purpose of this lack of direction — to stop arrests— seemed to have been effectively countered by the Police remaining absent. This was despite the many initial murmurings of the crowd that police vans were hiding behind every corner. The crowd on the whole remained humorous as it grew in number, with clowns and lecturers walking side by side. The prospect of being kettled — a police tactic used to detain crowds — seemed at the forefront of people’s minds though:
Many protesters arriving back at Senate House now. Others facing kettles in Whitehall.
— London Student (@LondonStudent) December 11, 2013
The march continued to Senate House — the scene of last week’s occupation which had caused so much controversy — and the security inside seemed content on watching as the crowd managed to burst through the locked gates and into the premises.
It was here that one bin was set alight, allowing the waiting press the perfect opportunity for a photo:
— Ben Jackson (@bjacksonuk) December 11, 2013
Almost as quickly as they had made it in, they left again, fearing Senate House as the perfect dimensions for the police to kettle them. The march then moved onto the Strand as chants of “Justice for Mark Duggan” became more vociferous and the group splintered with some heading to demonstrate outside of the inquiry into his death.
It was at this point that the Police became more active, trying to stop the protestors from barricading the front of the Royal Courts of Justice.
The majority continued down towards Trafalgar Square and then the Houses of Parliament, and it was there where they were met with the biggest Police presence. As the masses stood to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela, the crowd began to dwindle in number as they became eager to get back to their London campus’ and the protest came to an end.
One protestor, known only as Sam, told Pandeia “This was our purpose, to show the Tory scum that they can’t intimidate us into submission.” He then went on to echo Chessum’s earlier sentiment by declaring “this won’t be the last example of something like this, the real student movement is just beginning.”
The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts declared the demonstrations a success: “The London demonstration was effective and successful. Despite being the largest demonstration of its kind in over a year, no police were present on campus; campus was successfully reclaimed. After occupying a significant proportion of the campus, chanting slogans about privatisation in education and police violence, the demonstration went to the Royal Courts of Justice, demanding justice for Mark Duggan, whose inquest was expected to reach a verdict later that afternoon.”
Kings College London’s student media organisation produced this video on the day’s events:
Student protests have been increasingly targeted over the past year with a number of students being arrested or suffering violence. Despite this the police have continued to defend their tactics as being vital to maintaining order and allowing peaceful protest to exist.