Friday, 26 November 2010

Brighton's students join the fight back with massive demonstration against fees and education cuts

[Words Peter Knight, photograph Holly Smith]

Spring's youthful flower of resistance blossomed out onto the streets of Brighton with inspiring awe on Wednesday as well over 3,000 students woke the city with a thunderous demonstration of their passion to defend their education and to fight for their right to a decent future.

From morning classes school students from Dorothy Stringer, Hove Park, Priory, Blatchington Mill and many others staged a defiant mass walkout in the face of threats from some headteachers to link up with Varndean and Bhasvic students assembling early afternoon by Dyke Park garden and playing fields. As students united from across the city at the buzzing starting rally, a sixth former eloquently reflected the mood throughout the crowd declaring: "I have a dream! But I can't afford it!"

Facing Education Maintenance Allowance scrappage, potential debt-fuelled repressive tuition fees of £9,000 each a year and decimating funding cuts to schools, colleges and universities across the country, Day X marked a national day of student action with student-led and organised protests echoing through towns and major cities throughout the day. The 52,000-strong national November 10 demonstration still rang in the air two weeks on as now a spark for a spreading and growing student movement against education cuts.

Filling the width of Dyke Road, children in school uniform linked arms with young workers and college students and marched and merged with the oncoming contingent from Sussex and Brighton univerisities to deafening chants and cheers of protest. "Nick Clegg shame on you, shame on you for turning blue," bellowed out by 13-year-olds and college lecturers, adult students, trade union members and pensioners marching in solidarity.

Education is an essential part of any democractic society, as a right not a priviledge, providing a vital alternative to the scrap heap of joblessness with nearly 1 million unemployed 18-25 year olds across Britain. And yet education is being viciously attacked. Broken Lib Dem promises and a besoted Tory hacking machine were not what people voted for in the general election just six months ago, and society's youth is right to feel aggrieved and to be heard when they never had the chance to vote at all.

It shouldn't be surprising that our students and school children provide more inspirational intelligence in seeing straight through ConDem lies of "all being in it together," when our chief bankers, MPs and capitalists show as little intelligence in their handling of the economy, run in their own interests and for their profit-ridden system. And least of all are our children, the workers of tomorrow, to blame for an economic collapse and an attempted attack on the lives, conditions and communities of working class people when £billions go unpaid by those most wealthy crisis-causing fetters in society.

YouTube videos gasp at the sight of the march's wake as thousands poured down Dyke Road. "Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the top. Put the Lib Dems in the middle and we'll burn the fucking lot," echoed past the clocktower and down North Street and cheered by on lookers all along.

The mass peaceful march swamped upon Victoria Gardens outside the Brighton University Grand Parade building where the overwhelming strength of numbers flooded the end rally. As the heartbeat of the demonstration continued to pump away with students marching back into town, speakers from NUT, Unison, school students and Socialist Students society campaigners made the call for organising groups at each school and campus, and for students to link up with workers and campaigners in the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition who unanimously supported the event and helped to build for the day.

One group of students peacefully occupied part of the Grand Parade site but police stormed in and prevented them from leaving. At once, the large mass ran across the Old Steine and into East Street via passages to the town hall where hundreds took over the foyer of Priory House. There, the local Tory council forcing through massive cuts to jobs, local education and public services will have been shaking by the spirited anger of youthful protest.

Fear of united people making a stand is written clearly in the response dished out by the authorities when heavy handed armoured police waded into the lobby and violently lashed out at children with batons and fists, crushing students as they forced into the packed entrance. Five students, aged 15 and 16, were seized and held until 2am at John Street station.

The crowd spilled and filled Bartholomew Square as chanting and cheers, homemade banners, firecrackers and dancing students celebrated their efforts. Police used snarling dogs to intimidate and kettle everyone in against their will but breakouts forced holes in the lines. The Black Lion Street alley saw students defend themselves against pepperspray and baton-armed police as hundreds, freed, poured out towards the seafront.

Kettled peaceful protesters remained held behind as groups of inspired students continued on past the pier, towards bailed-out banks and tax cheats Vodaphone. The Western Road branch of Poundland was occupied by school pupils declaring that this was all they would be able to afford if education cuts and fees are unjustifiably piled onto their shoulders as the price to pay for the greed and speculation of the rich.

Attempts to falsely portray angry students as violent thugs with no cause pale in the shadow of the destruction and pain being made to our children's education, their lives and their future opportunities.

In the early evening at the Brighton University Grand Parade campus over 100 students from schools and colleges across the city met to discuss the movement's next steps. Earlier calls to establish campus-based school, college and uni groups were echoed and plans to occupy the space were debated, voted on and put into action with many remaining over night.

The spirit of the day trailed into the night, into debates and celebration, shaping into steps for further action on Tuesday November 30 upon a crest of unleashed conscious strength against the ConDem attacks.

Local trade union representatives offered public statements of support to the students as joining up every section of society under attack will be an essential task if these cuts are to be resisted and defeated. Via the local trades council, the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition issued a release calling for unity against all cuts and questioned police tactics at the demo.

Fight the fees, save EMA, stop the cuts!

Join the organising Facebook group here for further information or contact Jon Redford at

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