Fear of violence at NUS demo

Jenny Buckley - News Reporter 15 November 2012

With #Demo2012 due to take place on Wednesday 21 November, students from across the country are preparing to descend upon the capital to make their voices heard.

The protest is to take the form of a peaceful march, but President of the National Union of Students, Liam Burns, has expressed concerns that the violence of 2010 might be replicated. #Demo2012 aims to bring to public attention student concerns regarding education, employment, and empowerment.

Talking to The Cambridge Student, Burns said: “All aspects of the demonstration have been developed to ensure that it is safe and accessible, and provide an opportunity for students, to raise their concerns about the rise in further and higher education tuition fees, funding cuts, and the lack of job opportunities.”

The crux of the demonstration is to win and maintain the support of the public. The need for a peaceful protest has been stressed to individual student unions and, on the whole, #Demo2012 has been well received, with most student bodies showing enthusiastic support.

Yet Loughborough University and theUniversity of Reading have refused to endorse the action, possibly as a result of the Millbank incident (pictured above). The destruction of the Conservative headquarters at Millbank occurred in 2010 after a peaceful occupation turned violent. These scenes of violence are what many fear will be repeated at #Demo2012.

Although the route for the march has been engineered to avoid Millbank, there is no guarantor for a peaceful protest. Burns said that the new route is designed to mitigate the chance of risk, but he “can’t stop any arsehole from coming along on the day.” Although unwilling to comment on their presence at the demonstration, the Metropolitan Police Service told TCS that “the level of policing will be proportionate to the event.”

They were also keen to emphasise that the MPS is still planning its response. It remains to be seen what ‘proportionate’ actually means. At last year’s demonstration, MPS had 4,000 officers in attendance, but only 2,000 students actually participated in the march from Bloomsbury to London Wall, resulting in police outnumbering students 2:1.

At the time of going to press, 75 students from Cambridge University are expected to participate in the demonstration after having signed up to CUSU’s ‘Cambridge goes to #Demo2012′ bus trip.

Jenny Buckley – News Reporter