Monthly Archives: November 2010

Porter keeps on flipping

by Edd Mustill

NUS president Aaron Porter will have to be careful, as we say back in Sheffield, that he doesn’t “get a sore arse from sitting on the fence too much.”

Initially, he decried the day of action on the 24th for supposedly distracting from the NUS “strategy” of attempting to force by elections on Liberal Democrat MPs, using a constitutional provision which, by the way, does not yet exist.

He humbly back-tracked publicly in a speech to the UCL occupation on Sunday morning. He has acknowledged that peaceful direct action including occupations are accepted as a legitimiate tactic by the NUS, although his recent blog studiously ignores the existence of NCAFC and EAN:

“I want to announce my support for a new wave of action, spurred on and supported by NUS and Students’ Unions, mobilising our students in colleges and Universities and working with other activists and supporters from across the education sector, the trade union movement, parents, families and beyond. There has never been a more important time for a united student movement, and this is what I will lead.”

No activists will read this and think, “Thank god! At last we have a leader.” The numbers at tomorrow’s day of action will not be any higher because of this belated announcement.

Today the Cambridge Defend Education group, which was served with an injuction against its occupation of the Old Schools site, claimed on twitter:

“asked @aaronporter for support w/ our possession order. He said ‘we are not offering legal advice or financial support to students.’”

Porter tried to clear this up by suggesting that the NUS is seeking legal advice about the rights of occupiers but not on a “case by case basis.”

The NUS completely lost the leadership of the student movement after Porter so strongly and quickly condemned the Millbank protest in the national media. They are now trying to reclaim that leadership. The radical students who have mobilised themselves, and the groups who have been behind the days of action, must not let them do this.

Remember that the NUS wanted us to have one march, on the 10th, listen to some speakers, and go back to lobby our MPs. Remember that they have no strategy for defeating higher fees and education cuts.

The ball is still in the court of the radicals. We must start to formulate a strategy for defeating the Bill, and we must keep up and increase the use of democratic forums like general assemblies for debating the direction of the protest movement.

Comparisons can easily be drawn between Porter and Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party (remember them?) Perhaps Aaron gets a dizzying feeling when he sees Ed on the telly; a sense that he is gazing into his own future. Like Aaron, Ed has been unable to make his mind up about whether he supports the students protests, or perhaps whether it is politically expedient for him to do so. Political fence-sitting is fine in times of social peace, and it might even win you an election. Not any more.

Good luck to everyone tomorrow.

As they say in France, “The future belongs to us!”

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Prof. Richard Drayton on “Economic Lies and Cuts”

Here is the first of a four-part video of Prof. Richard Drayton’s talk at the occupied Cambridge Old Schools site. It makes for essential listening for all anti-cuts activists. Check out Cambridge Defend Education’s youtube channel for the rest.

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Posters from the student movement

by Edd Mustill

Here’s something for Sunday, before a heavier post on the student movement later. I’ve collected some of the posters emerging from the student movement.

My favourite is either the Edinburgh poster or the London South Bank one protesting against the banning of the anti-cuts group there.

The fist poster design for the 30th seems to have gone viral but I’m not sure where it came from originally. Can anyone help?

If and when you design more, send us the image at thegreatunrestblog@gmail.com and we’ll put them up.

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Cambridge go into occupation.

University of Cambridge students have occupied part of the Old Schools, the university’s ‘nerve centre’. Students’ Union officers are milling around and making supportive noises while students organise food, publicity, etc. Student journalists are inside and professionals/freelancers seem to be joining them.

Demands will be drawn up shortly. Proctors (university authority figures responsible for discipline) have arrived and are telling occupiers that the university intends to end the occupation and are pursuing legal channels, presumably an eviction order through the courts. More information later, perhaps!

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When is a charge not a charge?

by Edd Mustill

The Guardian reported the following at 3.05pm on Thursday, in the aftermath of Wednesday’s student protest in London:

The Metropolitan police have stood by the Metrpolitan [sic] police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson’s assertion that he had “no record” of police officers on horseback charging at protesters.

A spokesman said: “Police horses were involved in the operation, but that did not involve charging the crowd.”

He added: “I dare say they were doing the movements the horses do to help control the crowd for everyone’s benefit, which has been a recognised tactic for many, many year, but no, police officers charging the crowd – we would say ‘no they did not charging the crowd.”

The spokesman did also add that charging is a “quite specific term”.

Charging is quite a specific term. Take a look at the following video and see if you can see what might be regarded as a charge about a minute in. We should wonder whether Sir Paul has “no record” of this incident.

The video is worth watching to the end. Much credit and respect to whoever is behind the camera and NCAFC for posting it on their website.

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NCAFC and CoR press conference

The following video, from Counterfire, is definitely worth watching after yesterday’s events.

The press conference was held jointly by the Coalition of Resistance and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

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National Day of Action in Cambridge

by nineteensixtyseven

Yesterday hundreds of students, sixth-formers and lecturers took to the streets of Cambridge as part of the National Day of Action against fees and cuts.  At noon those sixth-formers who had taken part in the national school walkout assembled with students outside Great St. Mary’s.  There was a carnival atmosphere, with upbeat boom-box music punctuated regularly with angry cries of ‘Tory scum!’ and heartfelt denunciations of Nick Clegg’s post-election volte face towards Thatcherism.  Many protesters brought home-made banners and onlookers stopped to take in the spectacle.

Soon afterwards the march began, filling the breadth of King’s Parade before turning left on to the Market and making its way via the Guildhall to Downing Street.  The university authorities, having finally gleaned some indication of the route, closed the gates to the New Museum Site at the last moment, no doubt having heard the roars sail over the eastern wall of the complex.  I have been told that secondary school pupils were by this point threatened by the police with suspension, a power that clearly the police do not have but which was likely to frighten away those pupils brave enough to attempt to join the rally.

It was clear from the outset that the police had no clue as to the route of the march.  From the security idly stationed away down at the Engineering Faculty on the corner of Lensfield Road and Trumpington Street it was evident that the universities authorities were not much the wiser.  As the march continued south down Trumpington Street, police vans began to assemble at the intersection with Lensfield, parking up just behind some railings off the road.  Their efforts were in vain, however, as the march instead pulled right again towards King’s Parade.  The police could no nothing but follow the leaders.

The Free University of Cambridge

Once back in town, with traffic well and truly disrupted and onlookers gathering on each side of the road, the march took a roundabout route through Market Square towards Sidney Street, and finally headed towards Senate House.  Some activists then climbed on a pillar by the railings which surrounded the Senate House lawn and implored the gathered crowd to storm the premises.  Slowly at first but then with the increasing confidence that inevitably accompanies the dissolution of everyday inhibitions, people began to climb the railings until several hundred students were on the lawn.  Meanwhile, some activists had scaled the scaffolding on Senate House’s austere exterior, declaring the ‘Free University of Cambridge’ and demanding that education should be free.  This was a playfully subversive ritual, turning upside down the building’s usual role as a regulator of privilege and hinting at its potential to unlock a fairer and more accessible education system.

As was the case in London, the sixth-formers (who let us remember will face the brunt of the increased debt burden) were the most militant section of the crowd.  Some messages were formulated, with the assembled students giving a heavy steer towards making it clear that we opposed all university tuition fees and expressed solidarity with all groups in society set to suffer from the brutality of the Con-Dem coalition government.

Police violence

After the assembly on the lawn significant sections of the crowd began to walk slowly towards the Old Schools building, chanting and waving banners as they moved.  The bleating of one loudmouth on a megaphone was not enough to stop people voting with their feet, perhaps indicating that he would be best advised to give up playing ‘student leader’ and return to organising misogynist events at the Cambridge Union.  As the crowd reached the heavy locked doors of the building, the police guarding the façade acted with unnecessary force, striking several students with batons in the absence of any noticeable provocation.  It is symptomatic of the University of Cambridge’s contempt for the views of its students that it welcomed the police on to university property and then stood idly by as they assaulted people.  As the invasion of the lawn was civil trespass and no criminal offence was committed, it is by no means clear that the police had the right to intervene.  It is reflective of the impunity under which this uniformed bunch of thugs operate that they seemed not to care- something noticed by the student press today.

While it was not possible to occupy a building as so many of our student brothers and sisters have managed this week, the Cambridge rally was significant for the diverse range of groups it mobilised.  The secondary school pupils of the present are the students of the future and the students of today are the workers of tomorrow.  All of our struggles are linked and it appears that the unexpected militancy of the student movement in the last few weeks is spurring on the workers.  The newly-elected General Secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, is promising an ‘alliance of resistance‘ indicating that the anger of union members is shifting the bureaucracy to the left.  In the student movement, our own union in Cambridge has come out in support of the day of action.  On a national level several senior figures in the NUS have broken ranks with the union President, Aaron Porter, whose disgraceful treatment of his members after Millbank has angered many and it is significant that today’s protests were in no way organised by the national union.  The leadership of this still heterogeneous movement is slipping from their grasp: McCluskey be warned.

Students need to keep up the pressure on their universities, and together with workers and community organisations put pressure on the government to reverse its programme of social destruction.  If it refuses to desist then a broad-based coalition must be built to bring it down. These cuts are motivated by a pack of lies and there is an alternative.  This government has no legitimacy and we must fight it. Tuition fees can be our Poll Tax, and Cleggeron can be our Thatcher.  Resist!

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