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Friday, 10 December 2010

Day x3

Yesterday, the government voted through a rise in tuition fees by a majority of 21 - 302 votes against 323. Meanwhile, the streets of London were overrun with a protest that became nothing short of a battle between the police and the public.

There are dozens of breathtaking photos from Boston's The Big Picture - I've linked to that site before. They're incredible. This is my favourite, but I really do recommend clicking the above link to see the others:

We are living in interesting times, no doubt about that.

I have to say that I was extremely disappointed by the BBC's live coverage on BBC News 24. Their reporter was behind police lines, unable to see anything but projectiles lobbed at the coppers, and certainly unable to see any violence against protesters (which photos, videos and tweets from protesters tell us certainly occurred). Their studio voiceover reflected this, and their emphasis was very much on police injuries sustained, barely mentioning the other side of the story. There were also a lot of leading questions when they interviewed protesters, along the lines of "How can you defend this violence?", never asking the same question of the offices taking batons to the public they're meant to protect.

I'm reluctant to be too opinionated on the violence, as I wasn't there, but it seems clear that there was a lot from both sides. Several police officers were injured, including one who was thrown from his horse, and several students were taken to hospital (or, in some cases, left in the kettle despite urgently needing medical attention). Jody McIntyre was dragged from his wheelchair (read his account of events here), Guardian journalist Shiv Malik was beaten until his head was bleeding, and one girl had her collarbone broken although I haven't found her name or the circumstances yet (I think it was a cavalry charge). These are the stories I've heard because, I confess, there's a political bias to the left in the people I follow on twitter, but I will say it again: there was violence on both sides. Too much violence.

Callous and horrible though it sounds, this direction this war takes depends entirely on who dies first. I know, I know! I'm an awful person for even thinking it, but it's true: if an officer dies first, the witch-hunt to find and prosecute anyone involved in the protests will reach unheard-of levels. If a protester is killed by an officer, the public opinion will swing back towards the students. Or there's a third possibility, in many ways the most horrible: a protester will die as a result of another protestor's stupidity.

If this happens, the whole movement will fall apart. Peaceful students will refuse to march with the Socialist Workers; unionists won't want to march with students; and absolutely everybody will scatter as soon as possible anarchists turn up. I would say that this is quite probable, but the police are proving so enthusiastic in their violence that they will most likely, pun unintended, beat us to it.

Every protest displays more violence, more public disorder, and more condemnation from the government and police forces. I'm sorry to say that a death is only a matter of time, because this hasn't ended with the vote. This isn't going to melt into the background; these students are not going to shrug their shoulders, say "Fair enough then, it's the law, what can we do?" because we know what we can do now.

This. Right or wrong, there'll be more of this in coming weeks.

1 comment:

  1. Oooooh, I hadn't seen that yet! The Big Picture is such a wonderful site. those pictures are phenomenal.
    Just such a shame about what they show us :(

    Ditto on that uncomfortably morbid thought. I thought someone would be killed last night, and that's before I'd seen as many photos.

    It was always going to turn nasty, though. I can't imagine anyone would have been surprised to see projectiles, fires and vandalism. Some of the police 'tactics' are terrifying and shameful. But at the same time, I kept thinking; "I would not like to be in their shoes tonight." Same as not all protesters are "anarchist thugs", not all of the police there were frothing at the mouth at the prospect of cracking skulls, and I can't imagine how daunting it must have been for them trying to do their job when - even without truncheon flailing moments - those not causing trouble could get hurt. Never mind facing down so many angry people.
    But then, I can't imagine it was a barrel of laughs realising that despite being a peaceful protester you'd somehow got too close to the front and are in for a skull-fracturing good time for saying nothing more aggressive than "Down with this sort of thing!"

    I genuinely don't have a clue if this setback will see fewer protesters or more the next time they march, but it's just going to get more violence-orientated, isn't it?
    Keep writing about it pleezums.

    Interesting times. Scary too.


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