Tuesday, 30 November 2010

National day of student protest: 400 march in Newcastle

At least 400 people marched through an exceptionally snowy Newcastle city centre, as part of the 2nd national day of action to oppose cuts and higher fees. The majority were school and FE students, joined by some university students, lecturers, trade unionists and supporters.

A very lively march, with ringing chants of '9k? No way!' and 'No ifs, no buts, no education cuts', it ended outside the occupied Fine Art building at Newcastle University. Occupying students - now in day 7 of their occupation - applauded the protestors from the windows.

Three observations on today:

1. The protests clearly aren't going away. The turnout was brilliant considering the weather conditions, revealing how seriously the school and college students take this. Many of them weren't walking out of school to take part - because many schools are closed today due to the snow (hence the presence of this teacher and blogger). It was tremendously inspiring and felt like an unanswerable response to the myth of an 'apathetic' generation.

2. It was more organised than last week. Unsurprisingly, there was a fairly chaotic vibe to last week's protests, but now there are tentative steps forward in getting well organised. A major benefit was that we actually marched through most of the city centre, making a big public impact, the route having been negotiated by students and police beforehand (though the ending - going to the occupied building - wasn't part of the plan!). There now needs to be serious thought given to the next steps.

3. There were a few PCS and Unite flags and placards - a hopeful sign. But the unions need to do far more to get behind the teenagers demonstrating today. As we marched I suddenly had a vision in my mind of all these hundreds of school, college and uni students marching together with large contingents of trade unionists and their banners, plus people from all walks of life who want to save our welfare state and public services. We need to make this happen.

Also see: Newcastle occupier Rowan Rheingans writes for Comment is Free


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