I felt student fees protest was good...until I saw the riot

Halstead Gazette: Protester – Essex University student David Giles took part in the tuition fees protest in London that was marred by violence Protester – Essex University student David Giles took part in the tuition fees protest in London that was marred by violence

I’VE been a bit of a Conservative supporter all my life – but I’m a lot less so since I came to university.

I don’t have a problem with the Coalition itself or tuition fees on the whole. But I do think what the Government is proposing is unfair and the proposed cuts are going too far.

That’s why I went down to London.

The first protest I took part in was at the end of the last academic year, when the university was bringing in a levy for students to use the sports centre here at Colchester.

We marched on the vice chancellor’s office and shouted out our protests. We didn’t get the levy lifted but there was some measured amount of success, as we managed to get the figure down.

Like many of the students who went to the protest, I found out about the London march through friends. On the day there were five coaches that went from here.

There was a real buzz on the coach and a feeling that we were doing something really positive and, most importantly, we were all in it together.

It was actually quite amazing. There were a few anxieties about whether everything would go OK and that there wouldn’t be any problems but, to be honest, I didn’t really think about it too much.

When we got there, we got off at Victoria Embankment and before setting off, got our banners together and put on some face paint. There were obviously some who were more experienced than others and they started off the chants, but it was all good-natured fun.

We walked up to Whitehall where we joined up with the main body of students and then all marched to Parliament Square. It all went really smoothly.

Then there were these rumours floating about that something was going on elsewhere. That buildings were on fire and people were rioting, but we all thought it was just people exaggerating.

At one point, there were so many rumours flying about we didn’t know what to believe. I was just hoping that if it was true, that nobody was getting hurt or injured.

I remember where we were.

There were a group of students carrying a coffin with the words “the death of further education” written on it and a violinist playing the funeral march. Then there were all these drummers. It was a real carnival atmosphere.

It was only when we left Parliament Square and crossed over the river that we saw what was going on at Millbank.

It did take the shine off the day. Up until then I would have definitely gone on another demonstration because it was such a positive experience, but that did taint it for me.

As we returned home we were hoping that the focus wouldn’t be on that and it would be on the march itself. But, of course, after watching the news, we realised that wasn’t to be the case.”

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