On Thursday 9 December, while parliament debated the Con-Dem coalition government’s plan to treble university tuition fees, a fourth day of angry protest took place across the country.
The debate ended with MPs disgracefully voting to increase fees to a higher limit of £9,000 a year, with 323 in favour and 302 against, and so the campaigning against this attack must now continue and be stepped up.
In central London, 35,000 students and education workers, many from outside London, marched to parliament to show their strong opposition to education cuts and increased tuition fees.
However, demonstrators were faced with very heavy policing, and the use again by the police of kettling, on what was a very cold day.
The recently launched Youth Fight for Education campaign (YFE) held an impromptu rally during the demonstration, with speakers from the YFE campaign itself, London RMT regional secretary Steve Hedley, and student activists from Hull, Cardiff, London and elsewhere.
As well as fighting against higher fees, YFE is demanding that the educational maintenance allowance (EMA) is retained and that teachers and lecturers’ jobs are not cut.
YFE promised that if parliament voted for higher fees, the campaign against this attack would go on, as will campaigning against all the other attacks on education.
Protests elsewhere in the country included: 2,000 marching in Newcastle, 300 protesting in Swansea; a 50-strong demonstration in Leicester; over 200 school and college students marching through Coventry – including 25 ’year 11s’ who walked out of Coundon Court school.
Over 200 school and college students, many under the age of 16, from over 14 different schools in Coventry took the decision to strike or walk out of school on 9 December – Day X.
Many had sacrificed their EMA for the week (as full attendance is a condition of EMA) to make sure it is there next year and after.
Students made their way to the city centre, to the Youth Fight for Education and Socialist Students protest march through the town centre.
Workers from UCU, Unison, CWU, GMB and Unite came out to join the students and also an NUT member who had organised a ’school trip’ for students at his school.
The students were met with applause as they marched loudly through the city centre, demanding free education, no cuts and to save EMA.
A rally was held in front of the council house, where speakers from many different schools, colleges and trade unions addressed the crowd.
Former Coventry Socialist Party councillor and anti-poll tax fighter Rob Windsor, reminded the crowd of the historic step they had taken in making a decisive stand to fight for their and future generations’ rights.
It was the same united mass action that had defeated the poll tax, stopping them from all getting a bill for £1,000 on their 18th birthday.
Unanimous support came from the crowd that we should fight every cut, every fee rise and defend every service across society.
Also that we should continue to organise and battle – whatever the result in parliament – against the fee rise but also for free education and EMA.
The students and workers responded with deafening cheers when Rob Windsor asked the crowd not only to join the fight aginst the Con-Dem attacks but also to join the struggle to change society.
Watch a video of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQyvluPSnP8
Press release from Newcastle
The protest held in Newcastle today, which was organised with the help of members of Newcastle Occupation, saw 2,000 students from 6th forms, FE colleges and Newcastle and Northumbria Universities march peacefully through Newcastle city centre.
Crowds gathered at 12pm at Monument and then marched around the city until the rally at Civic Centre at 5pm.
The rally saw trade union members come together with students for an open mic, with speakers from the UCU and members of Newcastle Occupation as well as trade unionists and members of the public.
During the march, 20 members of the Occupation entered a meeting where Chris Brink, the vice chancellor of Newcastle University was present.
This was as a direct result of the vice chancellor’s refusal to meet with the members of Newcastle Occupation.