Student protesters marched through the streets of London in their thousands on Wednesday (November 15th) in a massive demonstration against tuition fees. The demo, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), was backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Facebook, who stated that ‘the political establishment has betrayed young people’.
Protesters carried this sentiment through the city, marching for 2.5 miles from Malet Street to Parliament Square, passing Downing Street, the Horse Guards Parade and Picturehouse Central (which received many jeers from the crowd). The march lasted for two hours, from 2-4pm, which was then followed by an hour-long rally from NCAFCA representative Hope Worsdale and guest speakers outside of Parliament.
Many students from Liverpool were in attendance, from the University of Liverpool, transport was organised by Guild Vice-President Rory Hughes and were joined by Hope University and John Moores Students. Also present were representatives of the LGBT+ community, Socialists, Communists, Labour members and Antifa.
While not attracting the same numbers as the 2010 student protests, the protest was very large and so police presence was necessary, consisting of mainly of liaison officers, a few mounted units and a police van. However, protesters were non-violent and proceeded along the scheduled route, with no reported arrests being made. The student activists remained positive and happy, with chants – such as ‘Education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes’ and ‘Cut Back! Fight Back!’ – as well as a drum squad helping to lift people’s spirits on the chilly day.
The energy and scale of the protest is indicative of a rising involvement of young people in UK politics, 60% of 18-24 year olds voting Labour at the last general election as opposed to 43% in 2015. NCAFC wrote online before the event: ‘There is no shortage of wealth in our society: enormous riches lie hoarded in the pockets of a few’, echoing the Labour campaign slogan.
Many protesters felt that the abolition of tuition fees was within reach before the election and are angry that Corbyn didn’t manage to close the gap between Labour and the Conservatives this year to secure his pledge. The event is also partly in response to Theresa May’s promise to not increase tuition fees by £250 a year with inflation, instead freezing them at an already increased £9,250. Most student activists consider this to be an insult and not at all the compromise it was presented as. Equipped with speakers, megaphones and their chants, they took their arguments to the gates of Parliament, hoping to have their voices heard by a government they feel is covering their ears on student issues.