OVER 60 young people were arrested after the protest action at Millbank on 10 November. Students as young as 13 were kettled for nine hours in London on 24 November. Young people learned from this experience, and on the next protest day, played cat-and-mouse with the police to avoid being kettled. However, 30 November ended with over 150 arrests. Heavy policing has marred every student demonstration in Bristol.
The police are being used to intimidate young people from protesting. The capitalist class and their government are very aware of the revolt that is brewing and want to warn off not just students but also public sector workers from daring to take action. It is an indication of the depth of anger and determination that young people have continued to protest. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the importance of proper democratic organisation and stewarding. It is possible to avoid police traps with sufficient stewarding and planning - as was shown, for example, by the leadership of socialists in the face of police aggression at the G8 protests in Rostock in 2007. In preparation for a massive education shutdown, students need to elect stewards in every school and college.
Again, trade unions can play a vital role, providing stewards for student demonstrations. Trade unionists need to also demand that there are no victimisations or prosecutions as a result of the student protests, and campaign for the right to protest. Trade unions should donate to the Youth Democratic Rights Campaign, set up by YFJ, to help provide legal assistance to the young people arrested and due up in court in February. Big protests will be needed in their support at that time, of students and workers together. To start this, there will be a 'kettling' of Scotland Yard on Saturday 11 December from 3.30pm.
It is also important that trade unions try to limit the ability of the police to act against protesters. We should oppose attempts to beef up police powers and arsenals, and support any reforms which limit their powers, such as demanding democratic controls over the police. Many of the police in these protests so far have been brutal, but we should raise demands which could divide the police and call some to question whose side they are on. For example, it was right for students on recent protests to chant "don't your kids need uni too" to the police. Workers should demand trade union rights for the police. The police tops can be forced to weigh up the consequences of deploying their forces to intimidate young protesters if the protesting voice of the labour movement is clearly heard.
To donate, please send cheques made payable to Youth Democratic Rights Campaign at PO Box 858, London E11 1YG. If you are one of the students accused or victimised then please contact Youth Fight for Jobs: firstname.lastname@example.org