NUS National Demonstration 2012: Educate, Employ, Empower.
Ten thousand students from across the country gathered in London to let it be known that they..? Well, that seemed to be the problem. Around half of the students there did not seem to understand fully the reasons for the Demo. So much for ‘educate’. Nevertheless, the students were enthusiastic, excited and ready to shout. Whether or not they knew the intention was to raise awareness of cuts to education didn’t matter: they made noise.
From Temple Palace to Westminster chants could be heard for miles; the atmosphere was chilling when students booed at the name of George Osbourne, and when passing under bridges and tunnels the shouts grew loader and the sound of drums echoed, which encouraged people all the more.
The same cannot be said for the rest of the march. Once we approached Westminster we came to a standstill, as anti-NUS groups essentially kettled their fellow students onto the bridge, chanting, ‘there is nothing for you in Kennington’ and trying to force people into Parliament Square, off the march. From that point on, the march became disjointed and slow; people lost their enthusiasm as the rain poured and we marched through the silent residential areas of London. As we approached Kennington Park, more people joined the anti-NUS mindset. We were in the middle of nowhere and chants where now pointless. The park was quickly turned into a festival-like swamp as the rain continued to pour and any spirit that was still alive was quickly stamped out as it became clear that most people had gone home. The atmosphere was not helped by locals walking dogs around the rally, showing more and more that we could not have been making less of an impact on Parliament if we had tried. The anti-NUS cries grew and the stage was stormed by people who would just not listen to Liam Burns (NUS president), who was forced off stage by chants and eggs.
It is easy to see where the march fell apart and why it got such bad press coverage. Nonetheless, it was an experience and I like to think that, up until Westminster, we put HE back in the foreground of the minds of Members of Parliament.