LONDON (Morning Star) – Over 50,000 workers and students shook the Westminster halls of power today with a march against the raising of tuition fees.
Anger at the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government cuts and fee rises spilled over just hours after the march with 300 protesters occupying Tory headquarters at Millbank.
Windows were smashed and small fires started inside with nine protesters and two police officers reportedly injured.
Riot police were so overwhelmed by the 2,000-strong protest outside Millbank that as the Star went to press the building remained occupied and they had abandoned plans to retake it.
Protesters from inside Tory HQ released a statement saying: “We oppose the cuts and stand in solidarity with public-sector workers.
“We call for direct action to oppose the cuts. This is just the beginning of the resistance.”
But many students distanced themselves from the violence, which they said was committed by “anarchists who weren’t even students.”
They said they would have supported the Millbank occupation if it had been done peacefully.
The demo was twice as big as expected by organisers. The vast majority of peaceful protesters rallied under the banners of “Fund Our Future” and “Unity is Strength.”
They were flanked by stewards from lecturers’ union UCU and the National Union of Students as they marched through central London and past the Houses of Parliament.
MPs inside the Commons could hear their anger loud and clear as students, lecturers and their families joined the chorus of chants against the government’s education plans.
The increase in fees to £9,000 (about $14,500) on top of inflation and the VAT rise will see the cost of a university education soar by an astonishing 311 percent.
UCU leader Sally Hunt told protesters: “I am here today to send a message to the politicians at Westminster.
“It isn’t fair to make our public universities the most expensive in the world. It isn’t progressive to discourage young people from going to college.
“And it isn’t just to ask the next generation to pay for others’ mistakes. Over the next four years while college grants are cut and tuition fees triple, big business will get £8 billion (nearly $13 billion) in tax giveaways from the government,” Ms. Hunt said.
Labour MP John McDonnell, one of only a handful of politicians on the march, praised the unity shown on the demo.
“This is the biggest workers’ and students’ demonstration in decades. It just shows what can be done when people get angry. We must build on this,” he said.
Much of marchers’ anger was directed at the Lib Dems for their U-turn on tuition fees.
Soas student Joana Pinto told the Morning Star that the Lib Dems had “betrayed students’ faith by siding with the government despite pre-election promises not to increase tuition fees.”
Cambridge University Students Union president Thomas Chigbo said he felt “particular anger at Lib Dems for their betrayal” and warned they could suffer the consequences at the ballot box.
Young Communist League general secretary George Waterhouse, who led a large contingent on the march, said: “We believe that education is a right not a commodity.
“Government plans would return us to the days when education was a preserve of the rich. It is clear the cuts are being implemented in line with EU diktats.”
This article is reposted from Morning Star.