Unless you’ve been avoiding the news completely, you’ll know that the student protests about the planned rise in tuition fees up to as much as £12,000 a year have been taking place all over the country today.
Following the massive demonstration in London two weeks ago, which saw 50,000 people take to the streets and a small minority start a headline-grabbing riot at the Conservative headquarters, the aim of today’s protests were to show solidarity in local communities.
London had a march yet again, and other major cities such as Manchester and Leeds turned out in the cold weather to protest. I was at the Bournemouth protest, wrapped up warm and armed with a paper poster to hold in the air.
We gathered on the Arts University College Bournemouth (AUCB) campus, a combination of students from there and Bournemouth University uniting as one, and marched through the university and down the road to a local park. Car drivers hooted their horns as about two hundred students with banners and megaphones marched past, chanting their hatred about the government for all to hear.
I was given the opportunity to shout into one of the megaphones while one of the guys recovered his voice, and although the chanting wasn’t exceptionally loud at this point, it did meet some reply.
In the park, the local college and sixth form students had already gathered, and us university students tagged onto the group before heading on as one through the park and down to the town hall. The numbers had doubled by this point and the loudness increased even more so; enthusiasm enhanced by seeing more students involved.
We stood outside the town hall protesting while a couple of members of the crowd went in to speak to someone important (I don’t actually know who.) This was the time where radio journalists from local stations came around interviewing students involved in the protests, and there were several intelligent responses to the posed questions.
We moved on to the town centre, to alert more members of the public to our plight. Someone raised the cry of ‘sit down’, so we did, in the middle of one of the main roads through the shopping area. The group stayed there for about five minutes, holding up the traffic, before turning round and heading back, stopping halfway towards the town hall and sitting down again.
This time, we had a guest speaker, one of the lecturers who agreed with our cause. His talk was met with cheer and approval from the crowd. On the walk back to the town hall shouts of ‘tip the bus’ could be heard, but there was no violence that actually took place. Banter was vocal rather than physical, as it had been intended as a peaceful protest and the seventy plus police officers present meant any troublemakers wouldn’t really stand a chance.
The protest eventually ended up back at the park, where it disbanded two and a half hours after it had started. Whether or not the politicians actually listen to the voice of the people is another matter, but I left satisfied and proud for standing up against the injustice of raising the tuition fees, especially when the ones making this decision had free university education.
One of the more common questions is why current university students are protesting when it doesn’t affect them. If they were to go on and do a masters degree, they would be subject to the higher charge, if it was implemented. Even if not, it shows support for younger siblings, cousins and friends who are faced with the injustice of having to pay more to attend university.
Agree or not with the protests today, it was certainly a good way to spend a Wednesday afternoon, and if more are held, I wouldn’t hesitate twice about joining in.