9:15 am - November 12th 2010
contribution by George W Potter
Having read Mr Barker account of what happened at Millbank I felt quite pissed off.
His account is unrepresentative of the majority of the protesters.
I went to the protest as a Lib Dem and marched with other Lib Dems to demonstrate our personal opposition to fee rises and to show that the majority of the party does not celebrate what our leadership is doing.
I wasn’t there the moment protesters went into the courtyard of Millbank Tower, but I was there shortly afterwards. I first noticed something was up when part of the crowd began following others off of the road to the right.
I first noticed smoke rising from the crowd. I remember some people gasping and hoped they hadn’t set fire to the building. Banners of the type that I had seen being carried earlier by SWP and anarchists were clearly visible above the heads of those gathered outside Millbank.
As we went past someone pointed out that they’d smashed a window with a chair. People around me were appalled at this and someone pointed out that the window they’d smashed was the office window of a private company and nothing to do with the tories at all.
Not wanting to get caught up in the violence (or be noticed by the socialists whilst wearing our Lib Dem regalia) we hurried past to the end of the protest. After realising that we were too far back in the crowd to hear what the speakers were saying, and that the view of the projector screen was blocked by the placards of people in front of us, we decided to mark the end of the protest in ture Liberal tradition by going to the pub.
We headed back past Millbank where we saw a few more people had gathered around the fire (the majority of the crowd looked to be in their thirties and it certainly seemed that non-students made up most of the people there). More windows had been smashed and it looked like it was turning uglier. There was a police van parked in the road but they seemed to be content to stand by and do nothing whilst property was damaged.
The crowd had thinned and we didn’t want to become a target so once again we hurried past Millbank. A few yards down the road we met a few more of our number who had been held back at Parliament Square by the police because some idiot had shouted out something stupid (along the lines of ‘Let’s go smash the tories’ though I can’t remember precisely). For me, this was the end of the protest as we got into a pub as soon as possible, once again aware of the socialists, bands of whom were now roaming the streets around the path of the march.
[Image by Jonathan Warren – who has more]
However, I can state with certainty that when I went past Millbank there were no more than a few hundred people gathered outside – about a thousand maximum. The vast majority of students went straight past and showed no wish to get involved. Yes, there were some morons who joined in but the vast, vast majority did not.
Out of the people I spoke to nearly everyone seemed to be concerned that the violence would overshadow our message and everyone was shocked as we heard about how the violence was escalating.
So, Arthur is completely wrong when he says:
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.
Granted, as a lefty I did enjoy some schadefreude at the thought of the Tory HQ being trashed but at the same time we were very glad that no one had been hurt. Except, as we were to learn later, people were injured. Glass, lumps of concrete and a fire extinguisher were thrown into the crowd and eight people (at least) had to be taken to hospital.
This was not the behaviour of the majority of protestors. Even if we assume Mr Barker is not exaggerating there were only about three thousand people at the most cheering the events at Millbank, and even less actually carrying out the violence. The other 47,000 protesters had nothing to do with it.
What he describes was not the righteous anger of students as some have attempted to portray it but an outburst of tribalistic, anti-tory hatred by a bunch of morons who cared more about smashing things up than the cause against tuition fees. Media coverage has been dominated by the violence – arguments about whether it is fair to raise tuition fees scarcely got a word in edgeways.
Aaron Porter was completely right to condemn the violence.
The forced entry and destruction of private property is illegal for good reason. Those who smashed up Millbank should be ashamed of themselves.
Granted, the police are partially responsible for the violence as they could have easily prevented it by defending Millbank in the same way they defended Cowley Street (it was so well defended that even some of my fellow Lib Dems who worked their weren’t allowed in). And, the violence probably did bring more publicity to the demonstration. But I’m not one of those who thinks all publicity is good publicity.
This was violence for the sake of violence and was completely unnecessary. It has tarnished all of us and will overshadow our cause for months.
To those who say the violence was necessary to get the politicians to notice, I say this: tell that to Mahatma Gandhi.
This is a guest post.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Education ,Events
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Reactions: Twitter, blogs
- Liberal Conspiracy
The violence at student protests misrepresented the vast majority of us http://bit.ly/cyjEiD
- Elliot Page
RT @libcon: The violence at student protests misrepresented the vast majority of us http://bit.ly/cyjEiD
- michael carden
“@libcon: The violence at student protests misrepresented the vast majority of us http://bit.ly/cyjEiD”amen to that
- Kevin Blowe
Bet someone will condemn Egyptian protesters' violence against police as it'll 'overshadow message' – this guy maybe: http://bit.ly/hwjJCM
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