Students from York travelled down to London yesterday to partake in a NUS backed protest echoing the ‘Demolition march’ of one year ago.
However this year YUSU had decided not to support the protest or subsidise the efforts of those who made the journey down.
Students form York St John and anti-cuts groups from York itself, joined an estimated two thousand other students from universities across the country in protest against the impending changes that will see a rise in fees.
Becky Jeffrey, a first-year student at York who took part in the march yesterday, commented on the lack of support from YUSU for the protest, saying: “YUSU are there to represent and aid the student body.
“If they aren’t supporting a protest such as this, which is fundamental to the future of the University, then what are they there for?”
YUSU stated that the proposal to support the event was voted down at the Community Assembly a few weeks ago because they: “Agreed that putting large amounts of money and support into the demonstration would not be a valuable use of Union resources.”
Despite support from the National Union of Students (NUS), the demonstration was only actively supported by a handful of other unions across the country.
The march was against the government’s decision to raise the level of tuition fees universities are able to charge to £9,000; Nouse reported in June that York is to follow most universities in charging the full amount from 2012.
Compared to last year when the protest descended into violence outside of Millbank tower, this year’s event remained peaceful throughout the day, with only minor offences resulting in 24 arrests.
The avoidance of any violence has been attributed to the planning and preparation of the Metropolitan police, who had 4000 officers on duty for the duration of the march.
However tension did build at several points, only to be suppressed by police. Several skirmishes broke out during an attempt by some protesters to occupy Trafalgar Square, with a stalemate developing further into the march following the police’s refusal to let a separate demonstration by electricians coalesce with the student -led protest.
However, the controversy surrounding the proposed use of rubber bullets was dispelled and they never materialized. A researcher for the electronics department at the University, who attended the march, believes the threat was merely, “a scare tactic to stop people demonstrating.”
The students and organisers of the march have also been praised for maintaining peace. Music resounded throughout the march, being only intermittently drowned out by good humoured chants of, ‘”You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off your riot suit”; and the more politically charged, “Show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.”
There was a strong sense of solidarity amongst the protestors and the public, with workers in the city of London regularly stopping to wave and in some cases applaud the passing student protest.
These signs of unity were greeted by the popular chant, “students and workers unite and fight.” The demonstration stood as a clear precursor to the planned national public sector strikes on the 30th November which are set to hit York.