Yesterday, I briefly joined the Oxford students’ occupation of the Radcliffe Camera - an iconic Oxford landmark, transformed into a place of resistance and hope. About 300 students initially occupied it to protest about government cuts to public services and higher education, and a group of about 40 are still there. You can read their statement here. They plan to run workshops and teach-ins today and are inviting everyone to come down and join in.
140,000 students, pupils and others walked out of classes and demonstrated around the country yesterday. Similar occupations happened at many universities, and several are still ongoing, including UCL, Cardiff and Sheffield. Messages of solidarity and support have been pouring in, and despite efforts by police and university authorities to deny some of the occupations food, water and even access to toilets, there’s a wonderful sense of determination and purpose everywhere.
Of course, the mainstream media has almost entirely focused on the ‘violence’ in London, but from what I can see, the main violence has come in the form of police officers beating, charging and kettling children. We seem to have stepped back into the bad old days of police repression of peaceful protest, with basic rights curtailed and demonstrators subjected to the brutal overreactions we saw at previous climate camps and the G20 protests in April 2009.
But the experience of being penned-in for hours in the cold, of being hit by batons and kicked by out-of-control cops will only serve to radicalise a whole new generation. Extraordinary things are happening in the UK today. Something’s snapped. The betrayal of politicians, the sense of powerlessness at the imposition of unjust, unnecessary and deeply destructive public spending cuts has pushed people over the edge and sparked a rebellion that will only grow.
The students are leading the way - and have already called another demonstration for next Tuesday. Meanwhile, anti-cuts marches and protests are being organised around the country, and a day of direct action against tax avoiders will take place on the 4th December.
We don’t have to take this anymore. So we won’t.