Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/10752
Mass peaceful demonstrations against cuts treated to repressive and sometimes violent 'policing'
On 5th December, for the fourth time in a month, hundreds of officers were withdrawn from high streets and estates as far apart as Yate in Gloucestershire, Yeovil, Bath, and Bridgewater in Somerset to subject mass peaceful demonstrations against cuts to repressive, and sometimes violent 'policing'.
On 23rd October police horses were deliberately ridden into a peaceful rally of 2,000 on College Green and Trade Union stewards had to link arms at considerable risk to themselves to protect a crowd including many families.
A month later, a 4,000 strong demonstration of mostly school students was 'kettled' for several hours in Berkley Square, and students as young as 13 were attacked with police dogs and drawn batons.
On 30th November a larger demonstration went off entirely peacefully, despite repeated attempts by the police to kettle it.
The December 5th Demonstration was almost 1,000 strong and again, entirely peaceful. After kettling 500 members of the demonstration in Queens Road for the best part of an hour Avon and Somerset police agreed to allow us to march down Park Street in a cordon, on condition that we dispersed from College Green.
As soon as we arrived on College Green the police broke their word and kept us in a further kettle for another hour.
Police press notices retailed as 'fact'
After each demonstration the police issue press notices which are happily retailed as 'fact' by the Evening Post (owned by the rabidly Tory Northcliffe Press) and the BBC.
These massively underestimate the number of demonstrators and report 'arrests for public order offences'.
In truth, these 'offences' appear mostly to be for such 'crimes' as swearing through a megaphone, carrying a paint bomb, and stealing a policeman's hat.
The acts, whilst not particularly helpful to the anti-cuts campaign, would not even register on the 'vandalometer' of the upper class yobbos of the Bullingdon Club (prominent alumni - David Cameron and Boris Johnson) and pale into insignificance compared to the destruction of the future of whole generation of working class youth.
The total number of arrests claimed by the police from over 10,000 marchers is less than 25 and the Socialist Party are unaware of anyone who has actually been charged with any offence! The energy, elan and discipline of the marchers is shown by the fact that the November 30th demonstration of 3-4,000 youth twice went through the Cabot Circus shopping centre and the crowded Christmas Market in Broadmead without single shop or stall suffering theft or damage.
Sustained by energy and enthusiasm and good humour
The movement has been so far sustained by the energy, enthusiasm and good humour of a new generation, previously written off as 'apathetic' by politicians and the media, finding their political voice.
We have repeatedly eluded and evaded police attempts to kettle and contain our demonstrations. The streets of Bristol ring with the slogan 'whose streets? Our streets'.
The demonstrations on the streets were matched by a vibrant lobby of Lib Dem MP Steven Williams's surgery on 3rd December.
Williams showed his contempt for students when he refused to answer our questions on EMA and claimed he was going to 'speak to his constituents'.
As the representative of a seat with tens of thousands student voters from both University of West of England (UWE )and Bristol University who probably owes his seat to his pledge not to vote for a rise in fees, Williams seems too stupid (or more likely arrogant) to realise that the students are also his constituents.
Occupations at both Bristol University and University of West of England have re-ignited political debate in these universities and resulted in our students' unions adopting militant anti-cuts strategies at general meetings with record turn outs.
This was a particular victory at Bristol (which has one of the highest concentrations of students from public schools) where the policy was opposed by the Tory sabbatical officers of the students union.
Both unions are now committed to linking up with the wider anti-cuts campaign.
The willingness of students to struggle is shown by the fact that the UWE occupation is still going strong after two weeks.
However, elan and spontaneous initiatives can only carry the campaign forward so far, a democratic and accountable campaign is now needed to carry the struggle forward.
A clear sign of this is that the turn out on 5th December was almost certainly smaller than it should have been because the Facebook group calling it (which attracted over 2,000 members) was closed down and the event 'cancelled' by the individual who set it up 36 hours before the demonstration .
Two welcome initiatives can, however, help to overcome this and build a strong coordinated campaign of students, school students, lecturers, teachers and wider public sector workers, service users and community group against the cuts.
Representatives of both the Bristol University and UWE occupations have been invited to address an Anti-Cuts Alliance meeting on Monday 6th December, and the UWE occupation have called an 'Assembly Against Cuts and Fees' on Tuesday 7th December.
Students are urged to attend these meetings which are being held at the Youth Hostel Association on Narrow Quay (BS1 4QA) at 7.30 on Monday and 6.00 on Tuesday.
The way in which students grasp the need to link up with other public sector workers was shown by their willingness to engage with rank and file police on the demonstrations - pointing out both that their jobs are under attack from the cuts and that their kids will have little or no chance of getting to university in future - and by the enthusiastic reception given on the December 5th Demo to Mike Wheeler from the PCS youth when he explained the link between education cuts and those his members were facing.
Mike was greeted with a standing ovation when he declared 'Osborne says we are all in the same boat, but like on the Titanic, only the first class passengers have life boats'.
From Bristol Socialist Students Jack and Jess (University of Bristol) Paul and Alex (UWE)