The Students Are Revolting

So for the second time in the last few weeks, the students are kicking off. From the sound of it, a good number of them have spent a chilly afternoon being kettled in Whitehall (which, for those unfamiliar with the term, means they’re boxed in on all sides by the police and held in one place. If we’re going with household appliances, I’d have gone with a pressure cooker, but hey ho. “Kettling”, to me, rather implies a nice cup of tea. And maybe a biscuit. But anyway).

Predictably, it’s all got a bit complicated and there’s been some… issues. Note: vandalising a police van? Really? Because that’s clever, isn’t it? Really going to win friends and influence people – and chances are it’s not even a student who’s part of the organised protest who started it.

Back in ye olden days when I started college, tuition fees were new, shiny and hated with a passion – made worse by the fact there were people studying who didn’t pay, by a fluke of timing, and doubly so by the fact that most of us had been too young to have a say in the previous year’s election. I remember a protest march that started outside ULU and was at best 50% students, 50% dodgy blokes in jackets and scarves looking for a punch-up. Thus goes the world. And that’s why the marches, the demos… none of it will gain any sympathy.

This, however, is something I can get behind as a form of protest. Non-violent, organised and eloquent: a group of UCL students have occupied one of the rooms in the main campus. Seeing as that’s where I studied, I’ve been watching with interest, and the way they seem to be running things is fascinating. They’re shut in and they’re plugged in: not only are they on Twitter, they’ve set up their own blog and e-mail address.

I can’t imagine it’ll do much: like I said, there were protests when I started, and I seem to remember a bunch of first-years barricading themselves in the Finance wing that autumn, and very little happened… but if you’re going to protest and you want to be taken seriously – you want your voice to be heard, not simply lost to the void – this seems like the way to do it.

Good luck, guys.

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7 comments

  1. While I don’t condone assault on people (and let’s remember the police are not exactly innocent in that regard) I find it difficult to get behind simple protests when you’ve correctly surmised it probably won’t achieve anything.

    To borrow a quote from Bruce Wayne “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy”.

    I read this quote on a forum from somebody, when the protests took place a couple of weeks ago and I think he sums it up quite well.

    ‘However, we need to do that in the context of defending the action and, yes, the “violence” – which was in fact “violence” against property, except in so far as the police violently intervened and forced a clash. (You might say that it’s their job to defend buildings against protesters, but that doesn’t interest me. I look at it from our side.)’

    ‘Consider the history of successful mass struggles against exploitation and oppression. Do you think they were won through respect for the laws of property?’

    ‘No demonstration will, by itself, stop the Tories’ plans (which is why need an ongoing campaign – like the the NCAFC Day of Action on 24 November). But they will have been far more scared and demoralised by the assault on their HQ than they would have been by a polite, respectable A to B march – and our side much less boosted and encouraged.

    ‘That is how class struggles are won – it’s about fear and morale.’

  2. Maybe, but I’m with Ghandi on this one. “A man is but the product of his thoughts: what he thinks, he becomes.”

    In other words: think like a thug, act like a thug… you’re a thug.

    There’s already enough of those on the streets. Adding to their numbers will not solve the problem, nor will it garner any sympathy for any cause.

  3. Well I don’t know about that, I mean countries like France have riots quite frequently, it’s not a nation of thugs, it’s the public saying “stop treading on me”

    The problem is that of course, this sort of thing will ineveitably draw people in who dont care about the cause and just want to throw things.

  4. Ah – no, that’s the French being French. Any nation who nicknames their riot police the “Cochons Raciste et Socialiste” (not entirely unfairly – that’d be the CRS… ‘scuse the appalling grammar) is a law entirely unto themselves. Mind you, having been in Paris in the midst of a bomb scare, I’ve come across the CRS a couple of times and they scare the shit out of me, so go figure.

    It may well be that any form of public march or demonstration will attract people out to cause trouble, and who will undermine sympathy for the whole – so surely the best way to avoid this is by sit-ins, occupations and passive demonstrations?

  5. The best way to avoid people who dont care about the cause and just want to cause trouble is passive demonstration possibly yeah, but unfortunately it’s not the way to get anything done, and that’s what we’re at now.

    To be honest I think we ar past the point of sympathy now. We have a government intent on making society worse. Action needs to eb taken before we get thrown back to 1984.

    1. Passive resistance and peaceful demonstration is action.
      Perhaps it’s not as noisy, and perhaps it doesn’t give such good opportunities for looting, but it’s a perfectly viable means of protest.

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