On Wednesday 19th November, 10,000 students marched for free education in London organised by the Student Assembly Against Austerity. It was followed by a rally outside Parliament with speakers such as Diane Abbott MP, Caroline Lucas MP, speakers from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, Shreya Paudel (NUS International Students’ Officer) and Michael Segalov (Sussex Uni Students’ Union). Verse writer Tom Johnson went along and shares his experience.
I’d heard absolutely nothing about the student demo for free education until a couple of weeks before, when my friend asked me if I could be bothered to go.
“I feel like we should, but I just don’t know if I can be arsed,” he remarked after I said that I hadn’t heard anything about it.
Somewhere deep down it struck a chord and I believed he was probably right. I should go down and check out what the apparent non-fuss was about, even if it was just to write this sorry article. In saying this, fears that it would be nothing but a chance for pointless politicals to feel like they were fighting for a God-given right bubbled inside my fairly neutral head. Commotion around the organised protest grew closer to the date and people who I spoke to about it seemed fairly excited to get a chance to voice their opinions in mass, and show their support for an allegedly just cause which, in a way, dispelled my angst.
When I arrived, fear became reality. I would definitely say that I am a person who judges someone as soon as I see them but you would have been blind not to in this situation. The majority of people were there for the enjoyment and for the excitement of doing something in mass (which I admit I did end up falling into), a smaller majority were there for the popularity/ fashion contest (proven by a girl who hurriedly asked my girlfriend where she had bought her jacket from), a large minority turned up because they love the sound of their own voice spouting their utterly useless political jargon, and a smaller minority showed their faces, although covered with balaclavas, to jump at the chance to cause an unnecessary ruckus. I’m not going to sit here and lecture you about how no one was there for genuine reasons, as I wasn’t myself, but I do feel it should be brought to light just how contrived a lot of the marching party were.
Free university education is a possibility without it being a right. A few conservative members estimated that 40% of student loans, set to rise with their plan to remove the cap on undergraduate student numbers, will never be paid back, therefore providing the government with a futile opposition to their own debt. Here it is clear that free university education would benefit not only students but the clearly confused government themselves. Protests like this one are important towards making necessary changes.
This being so, it still didn’t detract from the ridiculous character of some of the marchers. The chants and banners for a communist regime reinforced the fact that there were plenty of pointless politicals and people, who in their own special way, didn’t know what they are talking about. Furthermore, the fact that the otherwise peaceful protest turned violent at the end proved that a lot of individuals attend these protests to release a pent up anger that has nothing to do with what they are marching for.
By Tom Johnson