Thursday, 25 November 2010
kettle full of students
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.
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).
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.
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:
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:
I'm not defending that, just saying anyone could have predicted it.
So, everyone milled around for hours, without water, toilets or shelter:
(You can sort of see Westminster Cathedral in the background)
(improvised methods to keep warm. many people started doing their homework a bit later).
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.
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.