The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed


6:11 pm - November 11th 2010

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contribution by Arthur Baker

Marching along Milbank the word went round: “that’s Tory HQ!” soon, hundereds of protesters rushed towards the building.

It was completely undefended, and it took the protesters all of about 15 seconds to break through into the lobby. A minute later, a few police tried to block the doors to stop anyone getting in or out but to little avail. They were hugely outnumbered, and their raised batons did little to stop protesters.

Some once inside simply walked upstairs, went through a fire exit and onto the roof, others entered offices and smashed windows from inside, whilst others sprayed graffiti, smashed up the lobby, and generally caused trouble.

Soon the courtyard in front of Milbank had turned into a kind of festival, with students singing anti-Tory chants around crackling bonfires made up of burning placards and hundereds of people dancing to Dub being boomed out of a bike-mounted speaker.

It reminded me more than anything of Woodcraft Folk camps I’d attended as a child. Later a Samba band arrived, conducted by a grinning pony tailed young man, who led thousands of people in a chant of “Fuck Fees” in perfect time to the music.

Particularly touching was the moment when a girl who was taking advantage of the large clearing around one of the bonfires by spraying the words “Tory scum” on the floor was approached by a man with an air of urgency who said “Careful there, you’re spraying quite near the fire”.

As much as the Tory press (and for that matter Aaron Porter, the BBC, and The Guardian) are keen to give the impression that a tiny minority of nutters who “probably weren’t even students” were ruining the march for everyone else, this is simply not true. There were thousands of students in front of the Milbank Building, cheering as windows were smashed, adding their placards to the bonfire.

Perhaps the press simply do not want to believe that any significant proportion of students are angry enough to engage in more than a bit of banner-waving, but unfortunately this is no longer the case. The only moment when the crowd in the square was unhappy with the actions of protesters was when they loudly booed and jeered as a fire extinguisher was dropped (quite possibly accidentally) from the roof, and the crowd chanted “stop throwing shit” (see video below).

I made a point to talk to as many people as possible, and whilst nobody wanted to see people hurt, they were perfectly happy to cheer as Tory HQ was vandalised; I didn’t find a single person objected to the vandalism, not even a police officer and a BBC journalist who both told me (off the record of course) that if they had been students, they would be doing the same – and who can blame them, when they face cuts and job losses too.

A much as the press go on about ‘violence‘, the violence was very minimal. Like every protest I’ve ever been to, thousands of people pushing one way, police trying to stop them and inevitably a few people in the middle getting hurt. I saw people lobbing bits of placards and one or two throwing punches at police, and I saw police clobbering innocent teenagers with batons.

I talked to some students who told me that after smashing into another building they were trapped in by police and – despite not fighting back – battered with battons.

All of them should face justice, but for the record, putting a placard or an effigy of David Cameron on a bonfire is not violence, writing on walls is not violence, smashing windows is not violence and dancing on roves is not violence. Even throwing bits of cardboard placard at police clad in bullet proof jackets and helmets, armed with sheilds and battons hardly seems “thugish”.

The ‘occupation’ may not be justifiable, that’s a matter of opinion, but it should have been expected, and circumvented: 20 police lining that part of the road would have been enough to dissuade protesters.

Finally the question of whether the incident at Milbank furthered our cause or damaged it. One thing missing from the news coverage was footage of the building being stormed by protesters in the first place, why? Surely protesters forcing the doors and surging in would make incredible footage? The answer is that the press simply weren’t there. In fact, the cameras only arrived half an hour after the protesters. On a march of 50,000, until the vandalism started, the only cameras I saw were from LSTV (Leeds student television).

In October thousands of students and trade unionists marched peacefully on downing street, and they did not make the news. Peaceful protests make boring news, without causing a bit of trouble we wouldn’t have been as big news, never mind having almost uninterrupted coverage on every TV news channel and dominating every front page.

What’s more, what cause did protesters ‘damage?’ protesters don’t want public sympathy, they want to create a feeling of unrest, and show that the Coalition are unpopular with the eventual aim of taking their votes, and this protest can only have furthered this aim.

Of course Aaron Porter and any elected representative has to denounce any vandalism, but yesterday students sent a clear message that they are furious with the government, that you can’t deprive people of an education or saddle them with life-long debts without some reprocussions, and people are listening. Who cares if it made them unpopular?

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Reader comments


The ‘occupation’ may not be justifiable, that’s a matter of opinion, but it should have been expected, and circumvented: 20 police lining that part of the road would have been enough to dissuade protesters.

Right, so it is the fault of the police that you behaved like thugs. Er, OK.

I didn’t find a single person objected to the vandalism

Thanks for the honesty.

You’re no better than the EDL.

When will this blog be renamed Thugs’ Conspiracy?

a fire extinguisher was dropped (quite possibly accidentally)

Pathetic rubbish.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eGGXKWdbWo

3. Stewart Owadally

Glad someone at least admits this became an anti-Tory march?

I turned up for the march against tuition fee increases. Shame it got lost.

The ones attacking the police were disgraceful. I think a good rule of thumb is that if you’re tempted to hide your face at one of these things, then don’t do what you’re thinking of doing!

What I saw was lots of people having a sing-song and a chant. Never went close to Millbank and there were many more students around just having a peaceful march than were posing on top of buildings.

“You’re no better than the EDL”

Sorry, hear you go, you dropped this, it appears to be your sense of perspective.

Anyway, enough snarking.
___

Thank you for the write up, I was planning on attending the student demo, but I had to work.

I’m not so sure that smashing windows is not violence. I would say that it was violence, but that violent protest is sometimes justified.

The wisdom of this will be in the pudding, are students given greater say in the future or lesser. Much of the armchair pontificating that this was a BRILLIANT idea or a TERRIBLE idea will be moot in a few months time.

“Thank you for the write up, I was planning on attending the student demo, but I had to work.”

Sorry that sounds really snarky, I’m a part time masters student so I actually had workat the time of the demo, otherwise I would have been there.

“I’m not so sure that smashing windows is not violence. I would say that it was violence, but that violent protest is sometimes justified.”

Is there somewhere where subjective views of violence can be compared?

Like a beauty parade?

So one person’s violence is another’s free democratic expression. From my perspective, what happened yesterday was a bit of political extremism. I struggle to see any more romance in it then any other act that leads to things being smashed up.

Yeah, I’ve got to say I’m no great fan of the 68er style narcissism on display here quite often, but this really takes the biscuit.

That comment about the extinguisher dropping accidentally detracts from anything else in this piece. I don’t trust anything else that’s said. There is a general tendency amongst certain groups to vie for an image of public victimhood, as if by the purity of their suffering, their arguments are made valid. Hence “poor liddle iddle students being baton-ed by the big nasty police” language above. I’m afraid that the job of the police is to maintain order and protect life and property. If a bunch of anarchists and trots want to square up to them, that’s fine, but they must expect some consequences. And, indeed, there were barely any. The policing was exceptionally soft, despite the attempts to portray it otherwise above.

Now, there’s a serious issue about levels of tertiary education funding and how that funding is provided. That debate isn’t assisted by criminals throwing heavy metal objects off tall buildings at police – presumably intending to kill one or more? I suppose we shall find out at the trial when the guy is identified after the press has rightfully put his mug up everywhere. Now, I’m against high level cuts to HE as it damages both our national competitiveness and the egalitarianism of the 50% HE target that the last government had. Unfortunately, higher fees is really the only game in town to stop these cuts being more swingeing. Indeed, top up fees provided Labour with additional funds to rightly introduce grants for the poorest third of students. How else would this have been achievable? Oh, I know, maybe we could’ve scrapped Sure Start.

Positive externalities that accrue to the rest of society are less than than the benefits that accrue to the individual from getting a degree. But these do exist. And that is why the taxpayer foots the vast majority of the bill even with fees at 9k! We do not live in a society where resources are infinite. Socialism really is the language of priorities. If the left wants the public to take it seriously then we forget that at our very great peril.

I have to say, as a Labour Party member, I am sickened by the selfishness, the self-indulgence and the recklessness on display through the violence and thuggery yesterday. If I’m so disgusted, bear a thought for the ordinary public. What a lot of students, and a lot of people who post here, need to come to a conclusion on is this. Is politics a lifestyle activity – a sub-culture that makes you feel good about yourselves, or is it in fact a serious business that involves making real connections with the majority of people and their concerns? Is it about violence and protest and cop-outs, or is it about engaging in the tough decisions and debates that need to be had about where and how much to reduce public spending. Something to think about, comrades.

I’ve been tipped off that the person who threw the fire extinguisher was an MI5 infiltrator employed by Tory HQ to discredit the demonstration. Perhaps not true but there may be something to it as governments have went to more extreme lengths in the past.

10. George W Potter

Half of this article is nonsense. I well respond with a detailed critique later when I have more time.

So MI5 threw a fire extinguisher so close to a bunch of police from such a height that it landed a mere two feet away from them? Don’t be a conspirazoid dick, Merrill. This is kinda an illustration of what I mean. Sensible people will say “we must have a discussion about how to prevent harm to our tertiary education system and ensure access for the less well-off. We of course condemn the actions of those who broke the law.” Other people, who like the idea of politics as some sort of self-indulgent “gay Paris”-1968-and-the-heady-whiff-of-molotov-cocktails-and-weed lifestyle event will spend their time fantasising about MI5 black ops or philosophising about whether stoving other people’s windows in is legitimate or not. Without wishing to be overly rude, but needing a bit of anglo-saxon to really emphasise how such people look to the moderate majority, such people are a fucking joke. But more than that, they are a cancer on the left and its credibility. And that is a more serious matter.

“Is there somewhere where subjective views of violence can be compared?”

Yes, we have Ghandi at one end and John Travolta from Swordfish at the other.

Very few people are at either end of this scale, which means that some level of violence is acceptable to most people.

13. Arthur Baker

I wrote this article. From the ground I had watched the fire extinguisher fall, and thought that it could have been an accident (notice I said possibly, not definitely). Having seen the footage its clear that it was deliberately thrown, and I apologise I didn’t see that bit of footage earlier. The rest of the article I stand by.

brilliant stuff says pretty much exactly what happened last night. loving the fact the press and politicians insist that what was probably over 1000 students are a “tiny minority” the fact is we cant strike. and because we cant strike the government wont listen to us because we dont have the ability to bring ans industry or service to a standstill. at least this way they will have to sit up and take notice. they may say one think when their being interviewed but i bet all over westminster politicians are suddenly realising we wont back down until they do

I think the author of this piece is an unpleasant, self pitying and thuggish moron, so is it ok for me to express my disapproval by going round to his house to smash up his stuff because apparently that wouldn’t be violent?

thought that it could have been an accident

Yes, of course, it is normal practice in tall office buildings to store fire extinguishers next to the edge of the roof, where they can “accidentally” fall down.

The rest of the article I stand by.

Yes, because you are a tosser who thinks mob rule is a good idea.

9. Rae Merrill

Have you seen Bleasdale’s GBH? An MI5 agent provocateur? – possible. During the Miners’ Strike MI5 was certainly active and amongst the miners.

Is there a way to see whether MI5 are actively recruiting at the moment, increases in their budget, for example? If I was Sir Harry Pearce I would be looking at recruiting a lot more people, especially since the public service job cuts mean that there will be plenty of people happy for a bit of cash in hand work.

“smashing windows is not violence”

I think your moral compass has just been mislaid …

Not only is ‘smashing windows’ violent, if it is intentional is can amount to a criminal conviction for criminal damage.

Today, Liberal Conspiracy has excelled even itself.

C’mon guys, you’re all missing the substantive point, which is that it’s fine to smash up a building that is partially rented by people you don’t like.

And I was tipped off that a local and temporary gravity well caused the fire extinguisher to fall toward it as if it had been thrown rather than toward the centre of the earth.

To all the people argueing against this article, firstly, where you even there? Because if your basis for argument is being solely based on the media coverage then you have no idea about what actually happened. The truth of it is, asides from some overly violent protestors the occupation of milbank centre was nescessary. What kind of protest is it that sticks to the path set out by the very government we’re protesting against, to be honest 60,000 people might as well just have a walk in the park for all the recognition that will get. The assault of the Tory HQ was a demonstration of the very real anger that thousands of students feel today in regards to government cut backs. Most of the people who criticising this article are the same kind of middle of the road fuckers that we were protesting against.

To all the people argueing against this article, firstly, where you even there? Because if your basis for argument is being solely based on the media coverage

This is addressed to people who have just read a post entitled “…what the press missed”. Hilarious.

The truth of it is, asides from some overly violent protestors the occupation of milbank centre was nescessary.

“Overly”? Are you suggesting there is an acceptable level of violence? Care to spell it out if you are?

Yes, what happened was indeed necessary. If you wanted to discredit yourselves as nothing but a hateful mob, that is.

Interesting how polarised the views are on this issue.

I’m actually not very surprised about the Tory faux outrage here – a lot of them were defending the police when Ian Tomlinson got hit. So that is to be expected.

Whether the coverage will further anger the students or demoralise them remains to be seen.

Hang Nelson Mandela!

Sunny,

Yet again, the prejudice is all you expose. As a Conservative I am appalled by unjustified violence of any sort. The violence against Ian Tomlinson is part of a worrying trend of scion by the Police that we had passed over. We need to hold the police to account for their actions … And where they are guilty they will receive additional punishment as a result of the breach of trust that is implicit in such convictions.

Sincerely, I hope that you learn from today …

Sorry, posting on a new toy that I am not used to …

And I never wanted or called for Nelson Mandeka to be hanged and deplored that too …

Polemic is all fine and dandy, but you need to realize that there is more to political commentary than polemic … Often you succeed, but with a couple of articles today you have gone far too far defending things that you would otherwise oppose. Accept that errors have been made and move on …

“What’s more, what cause did protesters ‘damage?’ protesters don’t want public sympathy, they want to create a feeling of unrest, and show that the Coalition are unpopular with the eventual aim of taking their votes, and this protest can only have furthered this aim.”

Without public sympathy you won’t get a government elected that will reverse these measures.

When the Tories got destroyed in 1997 (with more votes than Labour got in 2010) Tory activists didn’t plan to force the elected government to back down from pursuing its agenda. They may not have approved of that agenda but they didn’t support violent campaigns to influence it. There was the Countryside Alliance march (peaceful with the exception of a few hotheads) and the fuel protests (disruptive but not violent). At the end of the day though the Tories couldn’t win the 2001 or 2005 elections. The public rejected them. Yes, they didn’t exactly win the 2010 election but neither did Labour, the SWP or the anarchists.

If you want to change the law, get elected, don’t resort to violence, unless the government is actively repressing civil liberties China-style.

Incidentally, I thought it was interesting that the legal definition of “terrorism” could cover this.

Section 1. –
(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][2] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

17. Richard Blogger

Yes, that may be the case. Security agencies have always attempted to penetrate student groups. That is how they find out about future political agitators and those who take a more radical approach to politics. The aim of security agencies is not to protect the public from harm but to protect the rich minority from paying more tax.

“If you want to change the law, get elected, don’t resort to violence, unless the government is actively repressing civil liberties China-style.”

really?

Get elected in a country with a press owned by oligarchs? where big media and big business hold sway? where education has become hoop-jumping inanity?

The cuts are direct form of violence against the poor and vulnerable. The Fees scandal is a subsidiary issue – but matters – and the Tory party has long sought to undermine HE for the masses.

It appears common to portray the violence as simpletons and thugs having fun. To portray them as needing to acquire a sense of political realism. The reality is that *they* are the ones who actually DO get politics.

Peaceful protest does nothing. I have tried, as have almost all of us one way or another. It is a mere vent. If there is real civil unrest – change follows. This may be ugly, but it is true.

Hang Nelson Mandela!

Disgraceful. As if a bunch of middle class students who don’t want to pay for their own education could be compared to the man who faced and brought down apartheid.

Anyway, we know what Mr Hundal thinks of the excuses for violence in the opening post. He calls it a “a good account”.

What’s next? “Attempted Murder of Police Officers: Why It’s Cool”?

29. ddd666

It’s the only thing that ever could work. We’ve been going round in circles for decades now and nothing ever changes except the same old crowd cling onto power, hoover up the proceeds and then blame it on unemployed scroungers and students, both of which are treated with equal contempt.

“middle of the road fuckers that we were protesting against.”

Yeah, Joey. Damn right. Stick it to the man.

If you really think getting what you want is best achieved by pissing off “middle of the road fuckers” then I pity you, and you are bound to be a loser forevermore.

Merrill, so let me get this straight – you honestly believe that are and have been no ideological differences of any import between Labour and Tory governments at any point in the last, what, 30 years, 40 years? Bizarre.

Jaysus, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

Nobody seems to mention on this blog that the “demonstrators” trashed the wrong building before they attacked the real Conservative Party HQ.
The alleged targets – David Cameron and Vince Cable – were in Seoul for the G-20 meeting.
So Arthur Baker is celebrating and defending the trashing of a building which was not occupied by the Conservative Party* and the pointless injury to police and students who unfortunately happened to be standing in the way of a thrown brick – does anyone yet know how much brain damage he has suffered?
I hate what Nick Griffin stands for – why the ********** do you help him?
* a later attack on the correct building failed to get into CCHQ and murder Lady Warsi

Who remembers when LibCon was a forum of discussion for left wingers? Before jumped-up bigots from the Tory Party – who think they’re oh so fucking clever whilst adeptly exhibiting their paraochial stupidity, narrow-mindedness and general lack of intellectual ability – colonised comment threads to moan on and on and on?

I guess it’s the fate of all websites that grow above a certain size. But I do miss the old Lib Con. Shame things have jumped the shark (comments wise).

But please, from me, to all the Tory trolls hanging around on here patting themselves on their stupid backs: fuck off, yeah?

But I do miss the old Lib Con

In other words, “I want an echo chamber and I want it now”. And more violence! From Mr Sagar’s blog:

Yesterday, tens of thousands of students gathered in London. Some of them fought the police, and attempted to damage the property of both the state and the Conservative party. Good. British citizens should do it again and again, until our lords and masters understand.

Yes, if you oppose mindless violence in the streets, you must be a Tory.

This place really is for the EDL of the left, isn’t it.

Paul, nice to see you supplying the context for that quote, which of course is a reasoned argument for viewing yesterday’s event outside of the narrow narrative of direct action being unquestionably bad, on the grounds that such a position is not tenable in certain circumstances.

@ Paul Sagar
As the LibDem majority of my family would say “WTF?” As a left-wing conservative, who continually attacked Gordon Brown from the left because I passionately objected to his making the poor poorer while the rich grew richer (unlike Thatcher and utterly opposed to MacMillan), I find your illiterate and irrational comment worse than a waste of space. If we want to help the poor, then making anyone outside the “politically correct” enclave hate us will not help – and if Polly Toynbee thinks that mothers paying higher rate tax are poor then she is not much use in helping the genuinely poor
It may be “clever” to point out that the rioters trashed the wrong building – OMG a university student shouldn’t be expected to find the right address!!
Anyone who cares about an innocent student hit on the head with a brick and taken unconscious to hospital with an unidentified degree of brain damage has to be a “Tory troll”? Those who complain about the lack of intellectual ability of “Tory trolls” should learn to spell.
You may occasionally have a valid point to make but currently you sound like a spoilt child )or a drunk)

And although you may find this hard to believe, there are possibilities lying between an echo chamber and a chamber if twats, though being an adherent of the latter you may find this hard to grasp.

And although you may find this hard to believe, there are possibilities lying between an echo chamber and a chamber of twats, though being an adherent of the latter you may find this hard to grasp.

@26

When the Tories got destroyed in 1997 (with more votes than Labour got in 2010) Tory activists didn’t plan to force the elected government to back down from pursuing its agenda.

They didn’t need to when they had most of the press constantly accusing the Labour government of being too far left, and Rupert Murdoch whispering sweet nothings (as in “do nothing to end our gravy train or you can kiss goodbye to my support”) into Blair’s ear.

John77, in the context of your comment at 34, your offering at 38 is somewhat ironic.

As for this brick and brain damage thing…can we have a source, please? Just did a quick scan of google news and nothing came up…

44. Arthur Thistlewood

There isn’t some universal moral law against the use of violence. Almost every group engaged in politics would find violence acceptable in some cases, and we regularly see those who use violence – soldiers, police, those acting in defense of themselves or their property – lauded as having taken the correct course of action. So outrage has to be balanced by reasons why such action was wrong in this case, and not a blanket condemnation. Of course you might say, “your examples of ‘justified’ violence are vastly different to what happened here,” which is fine, as long as you recognize that you too have a line beyond which violence is acceptable. I deplore violence against the person in almost all cases – including the defense of property where others may not – but I don’t see violent action or the threat of violent action as inherently wrong, especially when limited and targeted.

We renounce violence because without doing so it would be too easy for the strong to oppress the weak, and we invest the right to violence in the hands of the state (or equivalent) so that it might both use violence in pre-agreed ways and prevent arbitrary violence between individuals. We don’t renounce violence just because we think it’s bad in general.

So when is political violence acceptable? When it’s against the state; when it’s an expression of the state’s illegitimacy (either completely or in a particular policy); when it’s not to destroy but to demonstrate that violence is still the prerogative of the non-social individual. It’s pointless the say that violence is anti-social, as of course it is, how could it be otherwise when it contravenes the rules we collectively agreed? But it’s likewise pointless to say that because we’re citizens of a state, and thus contracted not to use violence individually, that political violence cannot also have a socially useful side. We have renounced violence for the general good, but if the state does not protect that good from others, or willingly harms it, then it can no longer claim the sole right to violence, especially when violence is a route to stopping or preventing that harm. The state cannot expect to delegitimize individual political violence while legitimizing the destruction of the general good, and it’s a duty of citizens to periodically restate the true relationship by violently stopping a harmful policy.

However, I don’t think the actions of the student marchers were measured, and other actions (such as a peaceful occupation) would have generated as much publicity without being over-the-top.

45. George W Potter

I’ve submitted an article to LC, in reply to this article. If they don’t publish it then I’ll put a summary of it here.

@ 42 Paul Sagar
That sounds very clever when spoken but when read (with the two posts visible) looks like complete nonsense.

@ 43 Paul Sagar
This is not the one that I read but is the first one to come up from google which you could have found in a few seconds idf you really wanted to know rather than to cast doubt on an honest comment by an independent commentator. Maybe you have sight problems?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/8124834/Student-tuition-fee-protest-lone-call-to-hit-Millbank-then-the-mob-descended.html

41 – OK then, what about in 1945? Industries being nationalised, the NHS being created, the trade unions empowered. Did Tory supporters march on Westminster? No, they put up with it. Same after 1964 and 1974.

Paul Sagar – unfortunately it is inevitable consequence of popularity that every day we will get Tory twats coming here and denouncing us in the strongest terms and say they won’t be coming back… until the next day. 🙂

(Incidentally I opposed the 2001 fuel protests despite sympathising with the protesters’ objectives because they were attempting to coerce the government by causing disruption.)

*2000, not 2001

@ 49
No, it’s because you name the site “Liberal Conspiracy” and people think it is a site discussing liberal views. not one run by extremists selling the line that “Tories eat babies” in disregard of all sound nutritional advice

Sunny,

How many of your regular, self-evidently non-Tory readers have to tell you how badly you’ve fucked with some of the posts on LC these last 48 hours before you’ll take a blind bit of notice?

Or are you intending to edit their comments? You know, just like you edited Unity’s
post?

Hi Brownie – people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I fondly remember the days when stuff on HP got people sued etc. Give my regards to Stephen Pollard next time.

You have some gall coming here trying to offer advice about editorial policy though, given that 90% of content at your own place is obsessed with obscure Muslim groups and what they’re doing. Or that has-been George Galloway. Or the super-important SWP. Thanks, but getting abuse from people like you is a badge of honour.

55. Leroy Miller

Wow, this article has really pissed some people off. Good! Fair enough it’s a bit partisan, but have you watched SKY recently? They may as well just call it Tory TV, it’s embarrassing! But let’s move on about acceptable levels of violence. We have police officers across the country committing unprovoked violence against innocent people, we have our armed services torturing and killing innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan in our name, we have Tory councils like Hammersmith & Fulham and Wolverhampton throwing out pensioners and pregnant women from hostels to be left to die. I’m just surprised given the situation more people don’t rise up against these ideologically motivated cuts! Maybe there were some pot smoking old bloody hippy anarchists there with their dogs on ropes, but there were also a lot of slightly more clued students than those that voted for Clegg, a lot if reports are correct from the anarchist hotbed of Kings College Cambridge, that decided that the Conservatives, who are the primary force behind the fee rise, needed to be left a message. Fair enough Cameron wasn’t there personally to witness it, but then he was in China telling Chinese students that the rise in fees for UK students would mean it would be cheaper for them to study at UK Universties! If that isn’t provocation I don’t know what is!

Evan Price: As a Conservative I am appalled by unjustified violence of any sort. The violence against Ian Tomlinson is part of a worrying trend of scion by the Police that we had passed over.

I’m not saying all Tories were silent during the Ian Tomlinson death – but much of the commentary is reaction to the press account: which initially paid little attention to his death until the Guardian exposed that he died by a police strike. And even then – the press and right-wing bloggers barely bothered to follow the story as it exposed holes in the Met police’s account.

Outrage on both sides is selective – I’m not even going to deny that. In this case I don’t have much sympathy for people breaking windows and throwing fire-extinguishers, but what annoys me is how people have latched on to that as it if represents the entirety of what happened.

I find the outrage against the riot synthetic and unconvincing; the result of a blogosphere which inflates a bubble of reaction in response to news stories. That a large demo by mostly young and fired-up crowd includes some skirmishes is not all that shocking. There has been worse.
However the idiot who threw the fire extinguisher off the roof now has, by the wonders of digital cameras, his uncovered face all over the internet, so I suspect he wasn’t a state spook, or an experienced streetfighter for that matter.

“What’s more, what cause did protesters ‘damage?’ protesters don’t want public sympathy, they want to create a feeling of unrest, and show that the Coalition are unpopular with the eventual aim of taking their votes, and this protest can only have furthered this aim.”

So, it’s a public tantrum, and you’ll rightly be put on the public naughty step (i.e. in prison) and ignored. Well done. Idiot.

Let’s not forget that it was the Labour party who brought in tuition fees, brought in top-up fees nd commissioned the Browne report which advocated raising fees.

Also note that the Labour party have been notably silent on the whole issue, guven that these policies are essentially their own, and they have no real alternative idea.

I also don’t get why the Left are so upset about the idea of students having to pay their own way to further themselves, given that it is the Left which is so keen to point out how much extra value in pay terms a degree provides, let alone that taxpayers fund it. I suppose it’s the natural sense of entitlement many Left wing commentators seem to exhibit.

The general theme seems to be from the author, Sunny and Paul Sagar is that violence, thuggery and vandalism is OK. As long as it is directed against the Tory party. I’m sure if the violence was directed against the Labour party or some minority the outrage we would see on these pages would know no bounds.

I find Sunny’s comparison to Madiba frankly laughable. The great man himself would probably find Sunny disgusting – not sure you remember but herenounced violence as a tool, instead choosing reconciliation. Quite different to Sunny having a little smirk about his political enemies being on the recieving end.

What does give me some comfort though, is that as much as many Left wing commentators like to think they represent the majority, they don’t. Otherwise Labour would still be in government. I also know that many of the comments made by Sunny on these pages will come back to haunt him some day. The half-life of the internet is a long time and much of what he espouses is abhorrent to both the right and the left.

60. once a student

the government got what it wanted – a bad press for the students. the real question is why millbank was left unguarded. was the lack of police protection deliberate?

Tyler – the right wing didn’t get a mandate either in the last election. I think people were hacked off with both sides.

Just to clarify here – I don’t blanket condemn or condone violence or direct action. Where it’s necessary, i.e. in self defence, reasonable force is fine. Smashing things is also fine if, as in the example of the BAE protest where women smashed Hawk jets destined to be used by Indonesia against the East Timorese, it’s directly necessary in order to save lives. But it’s been a generally accepted truism that senseless violence & vandalism doesn’t garner support or sympathy. I support the students’ cause, because it’s just & right, but the majority of people in the UK will see the hoodie kicking in the window & think “Ah, violent ASBO hoodies. Fuck ’em.” & the cause is lost.

writing on walls is not violence, smashing windows is not violence and dancing on roves is not violence

I suspect Karl might disagree. In any event, I’d recommend you read up on criminal damage, burglary, and in the case of throwing the fire extinguisher off the roof towards a crowd of people, attempted GBH.

Who remembers when LibCon was a forum of discussion for left wingers? Before jumped-up bigots from the Tory Party – who think they’re oh so fucking clever whilst adeptly exhibiting their paraochial stupidity, narrow-mindedness and general lack of intellectual ability – colonised comment threads to moan on and on and on?

The heart bleeds.

In what sense is the state oppressing any of you? The taxpayer is still going to part fund your degrees. Because we have a gigantic deficit, the current government is proposing to take away some of that funding. And that’s a cause for violence and vandalism? So when you get a lavish gift every xmas but one year you got socks instead, I presume you grabbed a bat and smashed up your house? Get a grip.

Is politics a lifestyle activity – a sub-culture that makes you feel good about yourselves, or is it in fact a serious business that involves making real connections with the majority of people and their concerns?

Never thought I’d agree with a labourite. Spot on. Sunny H and his gang are not interested in debate, they just hate ‘right wingers’, full stop. When they can’t win in debate or elections they throw their toys out the pram and resort to vandalism (sorry, ‘direct action’). It makes them feel like awesome revolutionaries, smash the system yeah! Go Sunny!

Bruno – they just want the same as their grandparents & parents before them got, & which those generations are now refusing them, in favour of giving huge sums to fatcats in tax breaks, bailouts & premature deficit repayment. I’d be pissed off if the state couldn’t manage to do now what it did for my parents just after WW2 when we were still on rationing.

I’d be pissed off if the state couldn’t manage to do now what it did for my parents just after WW2 when we were still on rationing.

Apples and oranges. In the post war period, only some 5% of young people went to university. That figure is now 45%. In fact, there is probably a higher proportion of young people in university now, than were taking A-levels in the post-war period. Perhaps that is a better comparison…

68. Arthur Baker

I did not say that violence acceptable, but I do feel that it is nececary to make the distinction between violence against people, which is always deplorable, and vandalis, if only for the sake of accuracy.

Nor did I say that vandalism is acceptable, but I do feel it neccecary to point out that the vandalism was perpetrated and encouraged by a number of thousands of ordinary students, not the tiny minority that we heard about. It is not good enough to simply dismiss them all as “thugs”.

@56 Sunny, I think the annoyance from those of us on the Left who don’t get misty-eyed at violence shouldn’t be mischaracterised either!

It is your site that repeatedly posts up articles full of euphemisms defending mob rule.

The comment @68 is a classic of the type I meant – measly-mouth faux apologies for the violence of the mob.

I’ve seen more honest defences of police violence from Tory Home Secretaries.

@ Tim J – maybe so, but Finland, with a GDP below ours, manages to send 80% of its young people to university on 100% grants. They know the value of a university education, as Finland’s industry is based largely around high tech & knowledge work. Our previous governments, both Labour & Tory, have converted the UK to a knowledge economy, BUT they disregard the need for well educated people to staff it. The result being students emerge from uni with massive debts & are immediately attracted abroad where the wages will help them pay it off the fastest, & we’re left as the call centre capital of Europe.

@Skiamakhos

How dare you make decent, reasoned points in favour of taxpayer-funded uni education. This isn’t the time or place to do that, this is a website for thugs that go gaga for violence. If you’re not careful Sunny the Hun will censor you for being a ‘wuss’.

The result being students emerge from uni with massive debts & are immediately attracted abroad where the wages will help them pay it off the fastest, & we’re left as the call centre capital of Europe.

I’m not sure that there’s a particularly large loss of graduates to abroad. And doesn’t LibCon normally take a pretty hard line on people who leave in order to maximise earnings?

“@ Tim J – maybe so, but Finland, with a GDP below ours, manages to send 80% of its young people to university on 100% grants”

It would be interesting to know how Finland affords this. Higher taxes? Lower public spending elsewhere? Is uni education cheaper?

writing on walls is not violence, smashing windows is not violence and dancing on roves is not violence

Wreaking people’s property is not violence.
Throwing shards of glass to cut people is not violence.
Throwing fire extinguisher from 6 floors up to try and kill those below is not violence.
Throwing bricks at people causing them brain damage is not violence. It must be a very peaceful world you live in.

@71 – absolutely agree on Finland

Somewhat like Germany, differentiation at both secondary and tertiary levels bewteen academic and vocational education. (Finland has more “polytechnics” than “universities”.)

I assume this is what you meant??

“but I do feel that it is nececary to make the distinction between violence against people, which is always deplorable, and vandalis,”

This is colossal hindsight and it doesn’t work as self-justification.

I was watching that window getting kicked in on TV and thinking, christ that’s going to slice someone’s arm off when it gives way. It didn’t, because it was splinterproof glass. You were lucky. I also wondered about the flares and the periodic setting fire to banners – not in the reasonably safe bonfire in the middle of the courtyard, but by the doors and inside the building. People were pulling electrics out of the ceiling at one point, and yet nothing dangerous caught fire. You were lucky. Case in point that you’ve mentioned, the girl playing with the spray paint near the fire – lucky again. The fire extinguisher didn’t hit anyone – lucky again. The police (probably because umpteen cameras were fixed on them) don’t seem to have done anything too terrible.

Everybody was lucky. I hate to sound like your dad, but I really hope you don’t go running off with the idea that smashing windows and setting fire to stuff is “non-violent” in the sense of not being fucking dangerous to real live squishy human beings, because it is.

I do find it funny, by the way, how we’ve managed to get to the point where even the Daily Mail headlines the fact that it was only a minority causing the trouble, that they do not represent most students etc etc.

And then what happens? A load of students write excitable blog posts about how, actually, it was us! it was us! We’re meeeeean.

Without wishing -but probably failing – to sound patronising, I think there has to be a distinction drawn between those who came with the purpose of creating mayhem, attacking property and inflicting injuries on the police, and those who got caught up in the swirling mess of the event.

As someone who attended many, many protests, both here and the USA, from the late sixties onwards, my experience is that there is always going to be a small minority dedicated to destruction, and I find it hard to fathom why the police did not reckon on that. I also find it quite ridiculous that they did not recognise that Tory HQ could be a target.

If you are experienced politically, you understand the dynamics of political protest marches, and you know how to avoid getting caught up in the rampage. If you are not, you can get caught up with the rage or euphoria of the moment.

This is not a justification for inflicting the damage; I have always opposed that kind of action – except in cases such as Skiamakhos outlines at 62. And the British public seems to be able to make that distinction as well: the Ploughshare Four were acquitted – read the story here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/pounds-15m-hawk-attack-women-freed-1331285.html . This landmark case is forgotten because East Timor is the “forgotten or unimportant genocide” (by the UK left and right).

I merely wish to register the view that inexperience, youthfullness and passion can cause some to get swept along with the ‘mob.’ Those who come prepared for rioting usually ensure they are also well-prepared to avoid recognition and arrest.

I fear that it will be those students who got caught up in the moment who will pay the heaviest price. However,that is not the same as the Daily Mail’s excusing the ‘middle class’ students led astray by nasty (implicitly working class) mature or FE students! I find this persistent distinction between ‘violent yobs wearing hoodies’ v ‘ upper class high-spirits leading to high jinks’ nauseating. But no doubt that will be a theme over the next few weeks in the right wing press.

Individuals must take responsibilty for their own actions, but it is actually the responsibility of police and those stewarding the event to try to isolate and contain outbreaks of violence – and it was utterly predictable. And – as I said on another thread- the media (such as Newsnight) does actually have a choice about whether to focus on the large demonstration treating the small acts of violence as a footnote or vice versa.

80. Arthur Baker

http://teneleventen.wordpress.com/

The actions of the students are supported by at least 7 officers Executive members of the NUS, as well as other Union leaders including the presedent of ULU and the presedent of RMT.

@ 17. To find out about MI5 recruting, why not look at MI5’s recruitment page?

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/careers/careers.aspx

““@ Tim J – maybe so, but Finland, with a GDP below ours, manages to send 80% of its young people to university on 100% grants”

It would be interesting to know how Finland affords this. Higher taxes? Lower public spending elsewhere? Is uni education cheaper?”

The answer is that Finland doesn’t send anything like 80% of the age cohort to university.

For a start, they differentiate between academic (university) and polytechnic (vocational). Secondly, the university rate is just above the OECD average at 20% or so. Then the polys add another (higher than OECD average) 15-17%.

Total for the age cohort is therefore lower than the UK system….and it’s, as above, including all sorts of vocational training (for example, nurses go to poly, doctors to uni).

The 80% number is an entirely appalling misreading of the actual statistics. That number is actually the percentage of those who enter university/poly who manage to graduate.

You’ve been had by an urban myth

“For a start, they differentiate between academic (university) and polytechnic (vocational)”

In practice we do that as well. We regard a degree from Warwick as superior to one from the university of wolverhampton. In hindsight though I think it was a mistake to change from the old uni/poly division (which remains in practice), and thus we should be talking about funding differently.

Just a minor point, but can people stop saying that the vandalism was of Tory HQ? It wasn’t – the Tories have some office space within that building, but I’m not aware that any protestors got in to it, let alone caused any damage. The CCHQ staff didn’t even evacuate from what I can gather, so the main effect on them was to get some sympathetic coverage.

The bits that got smashed up were in the communal areas of a generic office block, and most of the occupants of the building were just random office workers. If they’re still the same organisations that were in there when I used to work down the road, then a lot of them are public or third sector – the HQ of Leonard Cheshire Disability, for example, and the Charity Commission.

Also – re media coverage, I was at work watching the demo (in a supportive way) and it was already the lead item on the terrestrial news, top line being the unexpectedly large turnout. In fact, I was watching coverage of the rally, with some soundbites from the speakers, when the BBC suddenly stopped and switched over to Millbank and reports of injured police officers and so on instead.

I’m not automatically against all direct action as a tactic (rather than an end into itself) but I’m not convinced that this was a very good example of when and how to do it.

17 – They have recruitment adverts on the Underground. They read – an’ I’m not kidding here – “could you recognise the person in front of you?”

In practice we do that as well.

No we don’t.
Unis and polys in Finland teach very different things from each other.

86. Luis Enrique

how does the real price of a university education differ between Finland and England? which boils down to something like: where are academic wages in the wage distribution. It’s possible that despite Finland’s lower GDP (I haven’t checked that) university education is cheaper in Finland.

Richard – I’d suspect higher taxes, because teachers in Finland get really good salaries which suggests that the cost if anything might be higher. Personally I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more tax to make sure universities were free for anyone with the talent & stickability to go. I want my kids to have the same chances I had, if not better.

Tim Worstall – fact remains then that they send 45-47% (comparable to us) to higher education on 100% grants. So, why are we whining that we have to charge our students for it?

@ 87: that’s the second piece of bollocks you’ve given us today about Finland’s education system.

Here’s the list of comparable salaries for teachers around the world:

http://www.worldsalaries.org/teacher.shtml

They get just under $2,000 a month at PPP and $2,300 a month at market exchange rates. UK teachers get $3,000 per month (50% more!) at PPP and $3,500 at market exchange rates.

Given that GDP per capita (using IMF figures) is barely different ($34,300 for UK, $33,500 for Finland at PPP) teachers in Finland are paid a great deal less than teachers in the UK.

Do you actually bother to look up the figures you confidently announce or are they just made up?

“fact remains then that they send 45-47% (comparable to us) to higher education on 100% grants. So, why are we whining that we have to charge our students for it?”

Maybe because the university system appears (and I underline “appears”) to do a bad job. Of my two degrees, the one that I really learned from was the one that was shorter, part-time and I paid for. Not everyone is the same, of course, but for many people – particularly those not in the top academic cohort – university does seem something of a waste of time / badge of honour.

91. Luis Enrique

ah well there you go then – real price of university education is cheaper in Finland.

we could send 50% of school leavers “for free” if we wanted to, “all” we’d have to do is raise taxes substantially.

@ 88
20% plus 15-17% makes 35-37%
So (i) a significantly lower %age than UK
(ii) Tim W points out that lecturers’ pay in Finland is two-thirds of that in UK
So overall cost is half that of UK if class sizes are equal
I am in favour of zero tuition fees but you cannot justify them simply from the contrast with Finland.

To be boringly accurate, that is teacher’s pay, not lecturers.

Tim – I doff my cap, Finnish teachers do indeed appear to get less (though the figures on that site are 5-6 years old). They still spend a slightly higher percentage of GDP on education generally (6.1% vs our 5.9%) – maybe it’s a question of priorities?

There certainly are reasons why the Finnish education system is very good. It’s just that money (or “resources in Newspeak”) isn’t one of them.

The vocational/academic divide at 15 could be part of it, the social status of teachers as professionals (note this doesn’t coincide with higher pay!)?

96. John Meredith

It should be remembered when discussing Finland’s university sector that it is pretty crap, so that might be partly why it is so affordable. I think there are some 20-25 UK universities in the world’s top 200, maybe 1 from Finland? And that is around 100 in the list. So the answer may be that we can fund all students in the UK so long as they don’t mind getting a shit education.

we could send 50% of school leavers “for free” if we wanted to, “all” we’d have to do is raise taxes substantially.

Would this be progressive or regressive?

Thought it interesting that people on this thread refer to Mandela. People do know that he justified the use of violence at his trial, don’t they?

@96 John Meredith:
Your labeling of the Finnish universities as “crap” is flawed and based on wrong metrics. Looking at how many universities a country has in the world’s top 200 does not tell you about the general level of universities in a country; it tells about how highly esteemed the best of them are. There are so many universities in the world that it’s quite predictable that Finland gets maybe 1 or 2 schools (out of a dozen multidisciplinary universities) in the top 200 list.

Finland is generally an egalitarian society, and that means not onlya flat income distribution, but also other flat things, like a rather flat quality distribution in tertiary education. That means, there are no bad universities in Finland. There’s no place that would let through practically illiterate people who just buy a degree.

So, I would say that all Finnish universities would rate “reasonably good” in the US or UK scale. Not “crap”. Some world-famous names like Oxford or Cambridge or LSE collect the best talent from throughout the world, and that’s how they get to the top200 list. Finland’s universities mostly just provide good education to local youth (and some foreigners as well, who by the way can also study without tuition fees).

What astonishes me is that some people who appear to have passed the supposedly excellent UK universities manage to utter sentences like “Finland, with a GDP below ours, manages to send 80% of its young people to university on 100% grants.” That is, as someone pointed out, utter bollocks.

How would you expect a society to work if 80 % of its young people get a university degree? In addition to MA for school and nursery teachers (which makes sense) you’d have senseless overeducation. You’d have MSc for driving a taxi, PhD for operating industrial machines and BA of cleaning office floors? No, the talent of people in cognitive abilities has a certain distribution – you could call it a Bell curve – and not everyone can go to university nor does everyone benefit from university.

Perhaps the best criticism of the Finnish university system is that the country already trains too many people with degrees (particularly humanities) that do not have value on the job market.

To win a cause you need to win over public support for your battle. What I witnessed on my TV screen has lost me to the students cause. It was unacceptable and disgraceful, Whoever threw that fire extinguisher knew they were likely to kill or seriously injure somebody, and those engaged in mindless vandalism and criminal damage don’t deserve a single penny of my tax money even though they have shown they desperately need an education. Mindless Thugs i’m afraid nothing more .

@100

You are basing your entire approach to the funding of students on fewer than 0.5% of the protesters actions. Try thinking of the 48,800 people who weren’t at Millbank before jerking your knee so quickly.

1/2 of your kids are below average. I look forward to follow up comments blithering about means, and averages and blah.

1/2 of your kids are stupid. Is that better? What are you lot on about wanting more stupid kids at uni?

A true uni is for the top 20%, maybe 30%.

Most of you should be grateful if your kids are able to be a plumber. I am not denigrating plumbers, a noble, vital trade. I am denigrating you for wanting your proto-plumber kids at uni. Or stupider than proto-plumber.

When I’m king I’ll sell the lot. On what planet should Peter’s taxes fund the uni education of Paul’s proto-plumbers?

Paul: “This place really is for the EDL of the left, isn’t it.”

The EDL want to break people’s skulls for things they didn’t personally do; the students want to break people’s windows for things they did personally do.

Very, very big difference.

Personally I think the protesters would have made better headlines, and been much more successful at getting public sympathy, if they’d merely occupied Tory HQ in large numbers and had to be dragged out by the police – but I feel no great outrage about smashed windows myself. It’s windows, not people.

On the other hand, the moron who chucked the fire extinguisher gets what’s coming to him.

But – you know if the EDL were on that roof and Muslims below, I think barely a single one of them would have hesitated to throw the heaviest objects they could find. I find the comparison pretty offensive, really.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://bit.ly/booYxo

  2. Andrew Tindall

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  3. Ash Chapman

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  4. bat020

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  5. Donnacha DeLong

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  6. Jack Davies

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  7. Sarah Beattie-Smith

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  8. Lorraine Janectic

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  9. Maisie

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  10. Chris Reed

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  11. Deryn

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  12. Gustavo MontesdeOca

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  13. yorkierosie

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  14. Two Seven Two

    RT @libcon: http://bit.ly/booYxo – pretty much. It didn't have to be a small element of ultra leftists. Young people get excited easily.

  15. Cali

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  16. sunny hundal

    The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ – a good account by @arthurwbaker

  17. TeresaMary

    Excellent article – a different perspective: The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://t.co/5Cnrpxv via @libcon

  18. earwicga

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  19. amonthofMAIL

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  20. Emily Kawasaki

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  21. Chris Horner

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  22. Chris Horner

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  23. Stephen Germeney

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  24. Matthew Reeve

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  25. Danny Chivers

    Another interesting account – The Occupation of Millbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ #demo2010

  26. Dave Cafferty

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  27. R Gordon

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  28. Unaverage Charlie

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  29. Wonko Le Sane

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  30. Peter Ede

    RT @sunny_hundal: The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ – a good account by @arthurwbaker

  31. Calvin

    RT @chiversdanny: Another interesting account – The Occupation of Millbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ #demo2010

  32. Rachel

    RT @sunny_hundal: The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ – a good account by @arthurwbaker

  33. Shamik Das

    Compelling first hand account of the Occupation of Milbank from @ArthurWBaker on @LibCon: http://bit.ly/booYxo #Demo10

  34. Students get militant as they should | Prog Gold

    […] like a bit of property damage when done to the right people. But Arthur Baker is right to say that this wasn’t a minority stirring up trouble, but widely supported amongst students and bystande…: I made a point to talk to as many people as possible, and whilst nobody wanted to see people […]

  35. Zoë Scandrett

    RT @libcon: The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://bit.ly/booYxo

  36. Katie

    RT @sunny_hundal: The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ – a good account by @arthurwbaker

  37. Tha Captain'

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  38. Rachael

    RT @anpa2001: RT @spitfirepilot1: RT @libcon: The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://bit.ly/booYxo <hmmmm. Interesting pov

  39. Matt McG

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/11/11/the-occupation-of-milbank-what-the-press-missed/

  40. Nick Hider

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  41. Annie B

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  42. louise gittins

    The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rk88U9j via @libcon

  43. David Marsden

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    RT @sunny_hundal The Occupation of Milbank: what the press missed http://t.co/mkFTLCZ – a good account by @arthurwbaker

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  51. Richard West

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  52. True of false: Left in-fighting will stop the cuts « the red rock

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  53. Andrew Best

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