We Spoke To A Student Activist Who Was At The London Protests Yesterday

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Yesterday, students in favour of free education led demonstrations against fees. But what started off as a peaceful demonstration ended in 11 arrests and scuffles with the police. But nothing like the carnage that was witnessed in the 2010 student riots.

The protest was the biggest since 2010 and went ahead a week after the NUS withdrew their support due to “safety concerns.” However the demonstration did get the support of other groups such as the Student Assembly Against Austerity and the National Campaign Against Fees And Cuts.

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The protest was, for the most part, peaceful until demonstrators reached parliament square where protesters broke through barriers in order to gain entry.

Smaller groups then dispersed to other parts of central London where there were further disputes with the MET police.

I spoke to Kingston University student of Politics and International Relations, Ben Millard, who was at the demonstration to find out more about what happened and why he protested.

Q: So Ben, why did you protest?

A: “Well personally I am part of the first generation to have to pay back these £9,000 fees, that was quite a big driving force. But also ideologically I think education should be free. It should be free up to the point of which you want to use it. It’s being done across Europe in Norway, Scandinavia and recently been done in Germany, which has a very similar economy to ours and has a very conservative government. I think it shows that it is tangible and that it can be done.”

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Q: You said you saw some trouble at the demonstration, can you shed more light on what you witnessed?

A: “People moved down further into the backstreets of Victoria and outside the John Lewis headquarters was where the majority of where the MET were, they were trying to surround us. And organise themselves to know where we were going. They tripped over this guy and then a couple of them gave him a kick. They were being very aggressive in the way they were handling the situation.

“There were a couple of protesters that were arrested but were released about eight hours later free of charge. But one guy had to go straight to the hospital because the police wouldn’t treat him. This was the result of a sort of stand-off, they [the police] were trying to block us going down a street and people were just standing in front of them, trying to get through and chanting and then they were pushing them back and being very aggressive with their batons. And then there were a few more scuffles because obviously nobody wants to be pushed about.

“It just seemed like the police tactics were to break things up a bit because when people are released without charge, eight hours later, it shows that there wasn’t any real crime”

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Q: So would you say that the police were worse than the demonstrators?

A: “From what I saw and from where I was, I would say that they did over react. But I think that’s to be expected of any demonstration. I mean even though they’re supposed to be working for the public you always see a larger police presence outside these big companies and banks. If they’re being told to protect them instead of the people, it makes you question their allegiance.”

Q: Is there anything else coming up?

A: “This was the main protest that everything has been leading up to but leading up to the general election this is just the start. On December 3rd there’s going to be a day of action on their campuses across the country. That can be anything, so whatever people want to do on their campus whether it be holding a speaker, staging a walk out or having a banner drop. Basically anything that people want to do to illustrate their point.”

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We want to say thank you to Ben Millard for speaking with us about what he saw at yesterday’s protests and for giving us the exclusive use of his photos.

For more information about The Student Assembly Against Austerity and how you can get involved with upcoming campaigns go to its website, here.

The group even blogged Wednesday’s events live using social media, here are some of our favourite tweets:

What do you think about the tuition fees? Should they be free? Or should they just be lowered?