Thousands of students gathered in London on 21 November to march against the coalition’s policies on education cuts and tuition fees.
An estimated 4,000 students turned out to vocalise their anger with the government, but the president of the National Union of Students, Liam Burns, also came under fire.
Protestors heavily criticised the route of the demonstration, which passed Parliament before ending south of the River Thames, near the Oval cricket ground in Kennington.
The majority of protestors attempted to remain outside Parliament but were moved on by officials. Stewards in the crowd were overheard referring to those encouraging others as “thugs”. Bemused and annoyed by the route, only 400 students continued to the finishing point.
Norwich was represented well at the demonstration, with students from UEA and nearby colleges making their way to the capital. By the end, however, a division between the NUS and its members was apparent.
One disenchanted tweeter, said:
“this is what democracy looks like” i assume that doesn’t refer to the NUS stiffling #demo2012 with a rainy walk to surrey.
— LookLeftNorwich (@LookLeftNorwich) November 21, 2012
Chanting at the protest echoed this view: “Liam Burns, shame on you, where the fuck you brought us too?” When Burns took to the stage to speak he was met with more verbal abuse and pelted with eggs and fruit, and eventually forced off by protestors.
Alex Etches, a campaigner at the closing rally, said: “Burns was so arrogant, even the people who disagreed with storming the stage were turning against him. I disagreed with the tactic, but I can’t condemn it. Someone needed to tell him to sod off to his safe Labour seat – clearly no one wants him here.”
In a statement after the protest Liam Burns appeared unconcerned by hecklers: “It was just a bit of a distraction. I’m not going to get particularly bogged down by a few people who want to shout”.
Photo: Chole Vinden (Flickr)
Summarising the day, he said: “It was an amazing day. Thank you to everyone that came out to march on the streets and all others that supported online”.
Commenting on the route, Union of UEA Students Academic officer Josh Bowker said: “The NUS taking us to a cricket ground wasn’t a great idea. People felt we should be outside Parliament because that’s where decisions are made, not soggy, irrelevant fields.”
When asked about the increasing pressure the NUS leadership faced, he responded: “A lot of people are unhappy about the way the NUS planned the route. They ignored a huge petition from their members to change the route. They have to be held democratically accountable by their members now.”