Thursday, 25 November 2010

kettle full of students

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I generally don't mention politics on this blog, although I have my share of strong opinions, because this blog's focus is elsewhere. However, after yesterday's events, I don't feel it's out of place to make a little point or two...

Some of you may have heard about the newly elected government in the UK making decisions to massively cut public services and also to, get this, TRIPLE tuition fees. Since my course is only a year this doesn't directly affect me, but I feel, like many others in the UK, that this is a very very bad precedent to set, and will contribute to an ever-growing rich-poor divide.

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There was a march by 50,000 students in London a few weeks ago, which I missed due to being in Barcelona, but yesterday was a "day of protest" across the country, including walkouts, building occupations, marches, etc. I went to the London march and had my eyes opened to the new realities of policing.

In a democratic country, the right to protest is kind of a given, and in capital cities, protests generally take place outside the government buildings. Accordingly, the marchers were headed towards the Houses of Parliament when suddenly we hit a police blockade. There was some discontented milling around while everyone waited for them to let us through. Except it started to become obvious that they wouldn't. And then it became obvious what the plan was (pardon my cynicim, but I've been to too many of these sorts of things).

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A group of anarchist types appeared out of the crowd and started jumping on the roof of a police van abandoned in the middle of the road. Why was it there? I can't help but suspect that it was left there so just this sort of thing would happen. Not being a big fan of anarchists at protest movements, I and many other people started to leave.

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Oh, hello Mr. Policemen. What do you mean we can't leave? We haven't done anything! Well, when can we leave? You don't know...

About 2,000 people were stopped in the street, (there were other groups stopped on other streets, one of which we could see) unable to go forwards or backwards, while double rows of police outfitted themselves in riot gear. "This is ridiculous," my friend fumed. "We're being kettled. They're just trying to stir up anger and make someone actually do something violent so it will appear on the news." That was pretty much my thought too. I mean, we were hardly a violent group. Most of the crowd were 15 and 16 year old school children:

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Nonetheless, we were kept behind a police cordon for six hours (many people longer, I was one of the first people finally let out). As is only predictable when you keep so many people hostage, deny them their right to protest and leave police property for them as bait, this happened:

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I'm not defending that, just saying anyone could have predicted it.

So, everyone milled around for hours, without water, toilets or shelter:

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(You can sort of see Westminster Cathedral in the background)

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(improvised methods to keep warm. many people started doing their homework a bit later).

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Parliament at sunset. By this time it was about 2 degrees celsius (about 35 fahrenheit) in the streets, and when I finally got home my face was raw from exposure.

Night falls
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Whatever you think of tuition fees, politics, or any other points of raised here, I hope most of you agree that keeping children hostage on the streets for hours in the middle of winter, when they were marching peacefully to express their opinion, is not something we should support in our society.

35 comments:

ana said...

OMG!!! I saw this today in the morning news!! So you were in the crowd!!! Hope the students get what they are asking for...

itstime said...

This looks wild. where do you live?

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

The civilized city of London.

Zarna said...

triple the tuition???

thats ridiculous!

Closet Fashionista said...

ow that is insane!!! And that stinks about them changing prices for school, ugh...but here in the US its always been really expensive :/
http://aclosetfashionista.blogspot.com/

Shanna Maren said...

I do not know anything about the situation there.
At our school we almost started a revolution as well...

milly said...

this is really awful, I can't believe you were trapped in there.. all those people without food/drink & in the cold! What fantastic pics - u should go into photo journalism ;)

I'm beginning to get worried about the state of this country - we're coming to a point where the rich-poor gap is widening and only the higest bidder can be a winner.. grrr!

Hope you don't get poorly from being out in the cold too long...
In a way your day may have been preferable for u compared with mine - in a classroom with year threes all vying for my attention! ;) whilst i liked it, u were better off where you were! xox

Shallow Mallow said...

Ugh. Major grumpiness ensued just seeing this one on the news.
Funny people started doing their homework in the end :D

As for your commment my end: I was forever blurting out the one with the C in inappropriate situations ;)

Also, I'd be honored to make it into your autumn round up.

michelle_ said...

i saw this in the indonesian local news today !
my first reaction was like "wtf ???" 3x tuition fees ?!?! who the hell could afford that much of an upgrade ?!
i cant believe so many students were trapped in that madness esp when london is really chilly right now..

glisters and blisters

Raquel said...

I've seen this in the news yesterday and today. I think it is stupid to triple tuitions, but I also don't know what's the cost of education in the UK. In Portugal, it is an average o 1000 euros per year.
Aside from that, that's not the way to act with protesters. Also yesterday we had a general strike in Portugal and the Police was barbarous to some people...
Keeping kids in the cold streets is just shameless!

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

@ Raquel: I believe they're £3000 a year for undergrad at the moment, so they'll be going up to £9000. Pretty massive increase.

I read about Portugal this morning. I can believe the police were barbarous. I think that's going to be our new reality, since they don't want us protesting things.

Raquel said...

Oh £9000 is just massive indeed! I'm speechless.
Regarding higher education here in Portugal, what the government did was cutting the scholarships they offered to many students, middle and lower class would almost always benefit from it and now very few (just the poorest that even with that couldn't afford to study). So the student loans are increasing very fast.
Anyway, even if the Portuguese government did support higher education they're giving brains away (as I read sometime in the news) because they don't have jobs for us... Portugal is the 3rd country in Europe to send away more graduates to other countries (see me for example!).

hiven said...

It's scary really. I hope the now government half listen. x

daisychain said...

Amen.

Mimo Chic said...

I saw from Brazil, very sad!
miss you at our blog, rs
XOXO
LULU & Sol

Rebecca said...

It's pretty depressing isn't it. Great to read a report from someone who was there too.

Abi said...

Oh, UK! I am highly disappointed in your political judgement. Rising fees is a problem all over the world. The concept doesn't make a lot of sense to me at this point. Getting a Bachelor's degree is becoming more expensive, but it's also becoming more difficult to find a job regardless of degree seeing as everyone has one these days. People are starting to head on out to get a Masters degree and even a PhD. Shouldn't tuition be falling, or is the future generation to live with ridiculous student loans they'll be paying back right into retirement age?! So shameful

Reminds me a little of what the scene was like in Toronto during the G20 summit. Keeping people out in the streets without just cause for extended periods of time, must surely be violating some basic fundamental rights.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

@ Abi: You would think so, wouldn't you? I heard about the Toronto incident too.

I myself am getting a Masters degree, but I still feel like I won't be able to get a job afterwards... except that I'm a tiny bit more likely to than with a bachelor's degree. Will probably have to go teach English in whichever country is left unaffected by the crisis...

And you make a good point about retirement age. We'll be paying back our loans until retirement, and then we won't have any savings for our old age, since they're killing pension plans all over the world too.

SMASH said...

This is infuriating. Young people peacefully protesting and this is the sort of treatment they get? It boggles my mind. When I was in college, during the last two years, the UC university system (I went to UCLA) raised tuition fees over and over again and there were massive protests on every campus. The cost of an education is becoming ludicrous these days, it just isn't right!

Outofseasonface said...

This is absolutely ridiculous, soon the UK education fees will be just as bad as the US ones. It sucks because I'm getting my masters in the UK next year and one of the main reasons I applied over there was because of the low costs. Who knows how much itll be raised during the 2 years i'll be over there, i'm afraid to even think about it.
I don't understand why anybody would make these changes, when they are clearly not something anybody approves of. But I digress. And on top of it all they kept these students outside for expressing their rights, not violently I might add. Would it have been better if they HAD been violent? who knows what would have happened then. Most governments around the world are basically going to shit, excuse my language, and when people start reacting to all the injustice they'll have noone to blame but themselves.
Sorry about the rant, I have really strong opinions on these subjects, especially since I lived with a political science/history major for 4 years haha.

Meg! said...

Wow, I can't believe they kept everybody cooped up like that. What's the point?! Peaceful protests should be encouraged by a democratic government that allows input from the people. :\ How ridiculous.

Heather Fonseca said...

I'm so sorry that happened to you! Most of the protests in my area are well organized and patrolled, so this sort of thing doesn't usually happen. Even then, I don't go. I've never been to a protest - I hate crowds. Anyway, I'm glad you're home and safe now!
Love,
Heather
http://heatherfonseca.com/
http://heathersdesignblog.com/

Angelica Ng said...

You know, protest is fine. It's a right. But when you get into violence, and stupid things like jumping on police cars and vandalizing them, the message is lost. I have complete respect for the police, and I don't see how doing stuff like that gets the message across.

http://red-soledfashionista.blogspot.com/

Annushka said...

Wow(I in shock, the present revolution!!!

Ashley said...

COMPLETELY agree with you. And I am so strongly for freedom of speech, this pisses me off.

I heard about the raise in tuition, but I didn't know that it was tripled. Sweet Jesus! I would protest too!!!

SG said...

I am in favor of not raising the tuition fees. But with the police action I have to say that we don't see what the police see. I may be wrong. But they have their own reason to do what they did. I don't think in England, police unnecessarily harass young students. Again, I could be wrong.

Emily, Resplendent Tranquility said...

How shameful. Your first hand account is very powerful, Emily. Many of the comments you've already received touch on my own thoughts and opinions, so I will just say thank you for sharing yours.

yiqin; said...

Wow this is rough

Lucy, Dear Fish said...

I am glad that you posted about this protest. I am sorry to hear that you had to spend that much time out in the cold. The police and the government can be really awful and usually totally unprepared with their crowd control.
I think it is sad that you called those in the crowd who got violent and vandalised the van "anarchist types". Most anarchists are peaceful and do not go to protests with the intention of hurting anyone or committing acts of vandalism. It is more than likely that the people you came across were just using the protest in order to have an excuse to vandalize. If they were doing it in the name of anarchy they are just one more group who are giving the majority of anarchists an undeserved reputation. Anarchy is viewed by people as frightening, violent, and chaotic because the government wants you to think like that. They consciously publicize events which have taken a turn for the worse because of a select few violent protesters in order to discourage people from exercising their rights. I think as the concientious person you obviously are it would be worthwhile for you to do a little research into anarchy, as it is misunderstood and maligned because there are very few people who actually understand what it means.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

@Lucy:
I certainly wouldn't equate the actions of those few with all anarchists, and like most movements the vast majority of anarchists are peaceful people. However, I have a LOT of experience going to protests (I've been going with my parents since I was a child; there's always something going on), and there is a hard core group of people who would call themselves anarchists (whether they fit the actual definition or not is another thing), whose modus operandi seems to be to stir up as much trouble as possible, and to disrespect the police. Still, I'll do more research and see if there's not another name for these people.

Emily, Ruby Slipper Traveller said...

@SG: Thanks for your comment and I see your point. In fact, part of my shock from Wednesday was that this was happening in a country such as England. The police actions have stirred up considerable controversy here, so my point of view is not that of an extremist.

and re: the violence: I will point out that it was not violence so much as vandalism. I disagree with vandalising property, but as I tried to express, it was a very strange order of events. From my perspective, the containment actually came before the vandalism, which was then used as an excuse to contain us all for hours. It's like they wanted it to happen. I think, with all the world's current problems, that this is representative of a new form of control: make protesters as uncomfortable as possible, and maybe they won't come back.

Krystal said...

Wow, I cannot believe that. That is ludicrous. I mean, you know that, obviously - but...I hope they realize this?

Anthea said...

Wow, I am quite shocked by this. I honestly didn't think things like this happened in first world countries like England. I find it so weird that they want to triple tuition. It sounds like they're shooting themselves in the foot.

Terri said...

Whoa, I totally missed news coverage of this. Unfortunately, the US has a version of this. It's not so much that tuition has been jacked up beyond reason, but that so many students are encouraged to take out loans for their education. There may or may not be jobs for them once they have their degree in hand. I half expect that educational loans will be the next mortgage crises.

tastymoog said...

very sad. 3x tuition hike is so extreme, and clearly a class-driven ploy.

i am one of those americans who needed to take out loans, even with scholarships, grants and working while in college. nearly 6 years after grad school, i am about 35k in the hole and have struggled to find decent employment.