By Sean Ambler on Counterfire website
Over 1,000 Oxford students marched through Oxford protesting spending cuts and the Browne review. A student body noted for its conservatism battled the police in an attempt to occupy the university. Today we saw the birth of a new student movement.
An initial organising meeting of 200 students discussed the Browne review and its implications less than two weeks ago. On Monday a second meeting saw 300 people in attendance, and a demo was called at short notice against a visit by the minister responsible for education cuts: Vince Cable.
The facebook event page soon exploded to over 1200 attendees, leading Thames Valley police to warn the minister against attending. The fact that Cable pulled out of speaking shows the strength of the student movement and the weakness of the government when faced with determined resistance.
In high spirits that we’d achieved an early victory, we decided to push on with the protest – and the numbers of attendees kept increasing.
The demonstration started along a route agreed between the police and the student union. The route led us to circle the famous Radcliffe Camera, although after doing this several times the more militant students organised themselves and led a breakaway march onto the high street. A small number of police initially held back protesters, yet fifteen minutes later, after students reorganised themselves into formation, we were able to have our way and marched on up the street. It is our democratic right to protest and defend our education and we were determined to exercise that right!
Oxford has in the past not been in the forefront of student protest. This reflect the background and demographics of its students, with large numbers from wealthy families. When fees were initially voted in Oxford had the only student union in the country in favour. Today Oxford students leaped miles ahead in terms of their willingness to fight. They learnt that the state protects the interests of the rich and their government and tries to prevent protest when they were attacked by police, with many students pushed them to the ground. They learnt militant action has the most impact when they broke through police lines and were able to take the main street and march towards the Exam Schools in an attempt to occupy. They even learnt unity with workers, the chants changing from ‘No Education Cuts’ to ‘No Public Sector Cuts’ as the march progressed!
While we were unable to occupy due to university security being a step ahead of us and locking all entrances, the mood was there and it will be acted upon. Next month Nick Clegg is coming to Oxford – next time we will have double the numbers and have occupation plans in advance. Will Clegg up and run like Cable did?
If the most traditionally conservative and exam-focused student body in the country can go into mass militant protest then we could be seeing the birth of a new student movement which Britain has not seen for decades. If we follow the example of the French and link up with every sector of society facing cuts, setting up mass co-ordinating committees in every town of workers, students, youth and pensioners then we can bring down the ConDem government.
Today a little bit of the French method of resistance came to Oxford – now we need to spread the struggle across the country!
Posted by: Clare Solomon | October 29, 2010
Education protest in Oxford shows the way…Videos and more