Posts Tagged ‘police repression’

Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:


It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.


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London, Sat 9th April 2016

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Over a thousand campaigners had come to applaud those who had occupied the Carnegie Library in Herne Hill for 10 days to oppose Lambeth Council’s plans to turn the building into a fee-charging gym run by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, leaving just a small unstaffed room with a few books in place of a proper libary. The occupation made national headlines and attracted the support of many leading authors.

After the occupiers emerged to rousing cheers there were some short speeches before campaigners set off to march via another closed library to a rally opposite Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, but I left them at Loughborough Junction to catch a train to my next appointment. The library was miraculously opened on a reduced scale a couple of weeks before the 2018 council elections and in 2020 a lottery grant was given to the Carnegie Community Trust to run the library – an organisation linked to Labour councillors – rather than the community organisation the Friends of Carnegie Library. Security during the 2 years of closure cost the council three times as much as keeping the library open would have done, and the basement excavations for the gym ended up costing Lambeth over four times their original estimate.

In Whitehall around 2,000 protesters blocked the road in front of Downing St calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to resign because of the lack of trust about his financial affairs following the revelations in the Panama papers. Many protesters had come in party mode, with flowered garlands, Panama hats and suitably Central American dress or pig flavoured posters.

The party was still continuing but in a more angy mood when I returned several hours later have covered three other events, although there were fewer protesters. I was pleased to photograph two people in pigs heads – referring to the initiation ceremony Cameron had gone through when a student at Oxford for the “ultra-exclusive, ultra-posh Piers Gaveston Society” (which he later denied) with the placard ‘He’s Got To Go’. Despite the damning revelations of the Panama Papers against the ultra-rich and the offshore finance industry little if anything has changed.

Protesters outside Channel 4 on the Horseferry Road were calling for a ban on the Grand National horse race taking place today. Already 4 horses had been killed following accidents at this year’s meeting at Aintree – and around 46 in the last 15 years.

And at the Polish Embassy in Portland Place several hundred Poles and supporters protested in solidarity with the large protests in Poland against the bill proposed by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) which will outlaw abortion in all cases, protecting the life of the unborn child even where this may cause extreme distress or even death for the mother. They hung wire coathangers – the traditional crude tool of back-street abortionists – on the embassy door and fence. Huge protests continue in Poland where a near-total ban on abortion came into effect in January this year after the Consitutional Court ruled that a 1993 law allowing abortion in cases of severe and irreversible foetal abnormalities was unconstitutional.

Colombia has a long history of protests and their violent repression, at least since the late 1940s when the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate provoked riots across the country, with a brief period of respite under a ‘National Front’ in the 1950s. But from the 1960s on the country suffered an armed conflict, with the USA encouraging the military to attack leftist groups in the rural areas and the involvement of right-wing paramilitaries and mercenaries for multinational companies in human rights abuses in the fight against guerilla groups such as FARC. Drug cartels have also played an increasing role in the violence since the 1970s.

The government negotiated a peace deal with FARC which was rejected by a referendum later in 2016, but a revised deal was ratified by Congress shortly after. However agreements reached were largely dismantled by a right wing government voted in in 2018 and since then protests and police repression have again risen. Colombia, according to the World Bank, is the seventh most unequal country in the world.

A protest took place in Trafalgar Square on the same day as protests in Colombia against political persecution, calling for an end to paramilitary killings. People want peace, human rights and democracy in Colombia.

More at:
End Killings in Colombia
Party against Cameron
Don’t Criminalise Abortion in Poland
Stop Grand National horse slaughter
Cameron must go!
March to Save Lambeth’s Libraries
Carnegie Library Occupation Ends


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