It is estimated that around 10,000 protesters took to the streets of London on Wednesday to campaign against the scrapping of maintenance grants, high tuition fees and student debt.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell addressed the crowd, saying: “Your generation has been betrayed by this Government in increases to tuition fees, in scrapping the education maintenance allowance and cuts in education.”
“Education is a gift from one generation to another, it is not a commodity to be bought and sold. “This Government is betraying you and future generations. You need to oppose it and I’m here in solidarity with that opposition.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was not present at the demonstration, but a statement was read out to the crowd in which he encouraged students to “keep protesting, keep campaigning for justice” and asserted that “Education is a right, not a privilege.”
Although the march was largely peaceful, the event did lead to some clashes with the police and twelve arrests were made, after a small group threw eggs, smoke bombs and paint.
Reports show that a small group of activists clad in black with scarves covering their faces clashed with police officers at the scene, and a group tried to enter the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) building before being stopped by police.
Scotland Yard commented: “During this spell, a small number of smoke bombs and eggs were thrown at police outside BIS. A cordon was put in place across Victoria Street to prevent disorder. There was no containment in place. Officers have made a number of arrests for public order offences.”
There were claims by some that protesters were “kettled”, a controversial crowd control tactic used by police whereby cordons of officers contain a crowd within a limited area.
The demonstration was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Deborah Hermanns, a representative from the organisation, stated: “We know that the fight for free education doesn’t end at the end of this demonstration. “We are not just marching for one day and for the abolition of fees. We are building a movement which can strike to win, just as other movements all over the world have won.”
Melz Owusu, LUU’s Education Officer who attended the demonstration alosngside the rest of the Student exec, said: “We passed policy to support Free Education last year through a referendum, and our attendance and support of the demo is a reflection of this.
“On a personal level I believe that the learning and production of knowledge that takes place at universities is amazing and shapes the world. Therefore, I believe all people should have equal and unburdened access to education.”
A spokesperson for BSI commented: “This Government is committed to ensuring everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so, regardless of their background.”
“It has always been the case that student support provided by government is a contribution to living costs and institutions themselves offer a range of bursaries, scholarships and grants.”
“Our system means that lack of finance should not be a barrier to participation and more funding is available to support living costs than ever before.”
(Image: Ben Stansall/AFP)