Published on October 24, 2012 | by Adam Leyland and Shawna Warmington-Brown0
Students march against public sector cuts
Video by Harriet Mann
University of the Arts London students joined over 100,000 people to protest against the government’s programme of spending cuts in public services.
The march on October 20 began peacefully at Embankment and made its way to Hyde Park to listen to speeches from union members and Labour leader Ed Milliband, who was booed after he appeared to support the cuts.
Speaking of what Labour would do if in power, he said: “This Government has shown that cutting too far and too fast, self-defeating austerity is not the answer.”
General Secretary of the British and Irish union Unite, Len McCluskey, told a crowd of thousands why the unions were marching.
“Save the Children, for the first time, are having to help our kids, and in one of the richest countries in the world.”Len McCluskey
“The media have asked me why we’re marching. Well, we’re marching for our future.
“We’re marching for a Britain we know we can have.
“A Britain of full employment, a Britain of social justice, and a Britain that gives hope to our young people.”
McCluskey added that austerity was pushing millions into poverty and helping turn Britain into a third world country.
“Save the Children, for the first time, are having to help our kids, and in one of the richest countries in the world”, he said.
Toni Pearce, Further Education vice-president for the National Union of Students, told the crowd: “Take the student who is forced to persevere at university facing fees of £9,000 a year, landing to debt levels they can barely comprehend.”Pearce said : “Or the grants and bursaries slashed at her university, (with) barely enough part-time work to make ends meet.”
During the Hyde Park speeches, around a dozen disabled protestors chained themselves up and temporarily blocked traffic on Park Lane, near Marble Arch station.
Mary Ellen, 50, a disabled former nurse was one of those chained up and blocking the road.
She said: “The Government have put the responsibility of the financial crisis onto sick and disabled people.
“I worked all my life until I [became] disabled. I worked as a nurse and I’m appalled how sick and disabled people are being treated in this country.“Statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions show there are now 73 people dying every week because they’re being denied their benefits. Its totally wrong.”
“You can’t ask the establishment nicely to stop making austerity and cutting living standards, you have to fight.”Daniel Morley
A bus driver affected by the traffic blockage told Arts London News that he appreciated the protestor’s plight.
“This is their day, I’m not going to stop them. I’m getting paid anyway”, he laughed.
During the road sit-in, the mood of the rally soured when around 50 young protestors, some wearing masks, began running down Oxford Street.
To the surprise of tourists and shoppers, the group chanted “pay your taxes” and attempted to break into a number of chain shops.
The police subsequently threw the protestors out of a number of shops including Marks and Spencers and Starbucks.
Starbucks were recently accused of tax evasion, while Marks and Spencers have been unpopular for allowing people on Jobseeker’s Allowance to work in their stores for free, as part of changes to benefit entitlement.
UAL Marxist Society member Daniel Morley, 27, also took part in the rally, he said: “I’m here because the crisis and the austerity measures that are being imposed on people are unacceptable.
“If we don’t fight back against the system, we’re just going to face decade after decade of austerity.
He said: “You can’t ask the establishment nicely to stop making austerity and cutting living standards, you have to fight.”
LCC BA Surface Design student Georgia Armadas, 27, told ALN the protest may have come too late.
She said: “The fees have already been applied. Now only the elite of young people can enrol. Lots of people won’t be able to study.”
LCC BA Photography student Nina Parsons, 21, told ALN that she wasn’t sure what the results of the march would be.
“I don’t know what will come out of the protests, but its definitely worthwhile going.
“We’re in a situation where cuts affect us. It’s important for students to get out there and show they’re against these cuts”, she said
The TUC confirmed at the rally that consultations were underway for a general strike in Britain, however the strike is yet to be fully approved by the unions and a date hasn’t been set.
Europe-wide anti-austerity protests are expected to take place on November 14, while the NUS has also called for a national student demonstration on November 21 in central London.