Cambridge Defend Education protest despite raindrops and sneaky cops

Hazel Shearing 24 November 2013

Student activist group Cambridge Defend Education has been the focus of attention this week after it was named in the Guardian’s undercover footage as a group under potential police surveillance. However, this did not deter the group from staging further protests yesterday as part of the ‘National Day of Action!’ held by the Student Assembly Against Austerity.

The Sidgwick site was one of 26 campuses taking part in the nationwide protest against the proposed privatisation of student loans.

Using the same props as their protest two weeks ago (covered in Issue 6 of The Cambridge Student) Cambridge Defend Education staged more games of ‘Stuck in the Debt’. Two protests were held over the morning, and although the props were packed away before the third protest kicked off at midday, due to bad weather. Students did continue to distribute leaflets.

However, despite recent media attention, there is concern that students are still not willing to be involved in the campaign. While over 30 people were attending the Facebook event, less than fifteen people participated in the mid-morning ‘Stuck in the Debt’ game.

Imi, a member of Cambridge Defend Education, felt disappointed that some students refused to take leaflets, and noted that groups of students outside the Law Faculty “were definitely the least receptive”.

Another participant, Johannes, offered these thoughts to TCS, “What we’re realising is that the people in power are interested in minimising the amount of information that gets out about this. They use bureaucratic language that just means that no one really knows what’s going on”.

When asked if the recent media attenion conerning police interest in the group had affected the campaign, Johannes said, “No, absolutely not… In fact, if anything, it shows that the state is concerned about what relatively small groups of organised student activity can do, and I think they’re right to worry about us trying to spread information about this”.

Speaking in reference to the revelations about Cambrdidge police surveillance of student activity, one student from Girton who helped organize the protest said, “Engagement is even more important given the apparently growing tendency towards, and stomach for, the monitoring and silencing of student voices”.