Jenny Jones said:
“The policing of the student fees demonstration shows that the Met still hasn't learned how crucial communication is to the effective policing of demonstrations. They under-estimated the numbers as they didn't listen to the National Union of Students who reported a big surge of interest with more coaches being booked. The Met failed to deploy quickly, even after the students entered the wrong building at Millbank Towers.”
“To be fair on the police, they got caught out by a spontaneous outburst of anger and those moments are very hard to anticipate and plan for.”
The Green Party is committed through its Constitution to non-violent forms of direct action, and has condemned yesterday’s violent protestors for drawing attention away from the aims of the overwhelming majority of peaceful demonstrators, who are appalled at the government’s plans to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9000 per year.
As always the media attention is on a small number of violent people, virtually ignoring the thousands of legitimate protesters.
The majority were just plain old students, but angry. The kind of students who go to their lectures, go to parties, play sport at the weekends and sometimes get a bit drunk and lairy. And there were a lot of very young students there. Maybe they were first years, but many of them looked like school students. They weren’t all middle class, they weren’t all white, they hadn’t all come in on the student union buses.
These are the people who made up the majority of the people at Millbank – ordinary young people, working class and middle class, from school age up to university age, who hadn’t been on many demos before, whose only encounter with the police, or with agitated crowds, had been Saturday night lairiness or sports matches.
And that set the mood. It felt like a rowdy night in a busy town. People were angry and frustrated, and they hadn’t had the training or the experience to deal with the situation. If it was true that a militant anarchist faction had led the violence at Millbank then here’s what it would have looked like:
Everybody facing the police line would have had a mask on. Nobody would plan to feature prominently in national newspapers with their face clearly exposed, throwing a stick at a police officer or smashing a window. But what did we actually see? A few make-shift bandannas slipping down people’s faces and a huge number of students who hadn’t even tried to hide their identity.
Millbank showed what happens when a generation realises that they are being disenfranchised. We voted, it didn’t count.
Condemn the stupidity of dropping a fire extinguisher on a crowd, of course. But the masses who swarmed peacefully into the lobby through open doors should be heroes