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Taking a broader perspective…

Editorial: Report on Leeds’ #Dayx Protests!

It was a cold, crispy day that for us started as it meant to go on; in spontaneity! Nearly missing the start of the march, the police stopped the bus we were on one stop before we were set to get off, but the bus driver kindly (for once) let us off the bus. We ran up to the march, Jane falling over in the process, to catch up with the chanting and collective spirit of the movement. We were greeted by creative and classic rally chants such as “David Cameron f*** off back to Eton”, “Shame on Nick Clegg for Turning Blue” and “No Ifs No Buts No Education Cuts” (please note, we tried to take a picture of the flying condom with “F***** by debt” but it blew away in the wind!) A morning of Duran Duran tunes, and we are back to 1980s in everything but the date. On the day that Ireland announces a further damaging ‘rescue plan’ (aka. shock doctrine poison) that will rise VAT, cut public sector jobs and minimum wage but leave the unfathomably low corporation tax unchanged, this unified direct action is more important than ever.

The march itself was largely good-natured and, in light of reports coming from London especially, notable for the relatively sensible behaviour of the police. True, the police horses themselves were sometimes a bit restive but that’s probably to be expected with the volume of noise coming from the demonstration. No serious attempt was made to ‘kettle’ demonstrators and when the demonstration tested the police by appearing to change direction from the scheduled route they responded by simply adapting rather than with heavy-handedness. It was hard to tell what onlookers made of the passing demonstration but it was certainly noticed by people looking out of office windows and early Christmas shoppers alike. When the march reached its destination, the police once again demonstrated their common sense as the order was clearly heard for the uniformed officers to ‘fall back’ and let the protestors peacefully assemble. This gives the lie to the myth that ‘kettling’ is a necessary part of crowd control, it simply is not; it’s provocative and reckless.

The spirit of the movement was spontaneity through and through. Yes, there had been prior organisation, but the day had an air of self-development; there was music, peaceful direct action – with a sharp purposeful edge to it – there were students from secondary school, college, sixth-form and university. We were untied together and will become more untied the more this government attempts to curtail freedom of speech – as it has done today in shamefully supporting the kettling of a rightful protest! Contra to the police statements, the beauty of twitter has enabled those within the kettling to inform us that they haven’t been able to go to the loo, nor have water, nor eat whilst standing in the cold. A very direct and to the point blog, which we recommend you read, is Michael Crick’s regarding the hypocrisy (yes, again) of the LibDems’ regarding kettling.

There was still the spontaneity and vibrancy within the occupation, but it was curtailed slightly by the hierarchical and vanguard formations within talks of what, where, who. There were even ‘votes’ and debates in regards to whether a chair should be instated; whilst attempting to ensure democratic votes on nearly every aspect being discussed. We are all for democracy, but this type of perfection actually undermines movements such as this; we lost people, especially the younger ones, as we broke out into pointless talks of the advantages and disadvantages of having a chair and criticising the music (which was primarily the younger movement’s creative activity)! There was an attempt to confront the Vice Chancellor, but a delegation instead of the mass were sent to make sure we maintained the occupation. This is fully understandable, but the size of the university got the room talking about the possibilities of more targeted small-scale protests. We will continue to protest until we are listened to. Michael Gove can talk about giving us no oxygen, but he is ignoring the very voices he pretends to value so much.

Janus Face Clegg

In conclusion, the protests today were in many ways a greater success than the now famous one that included the occupation of Millbank. This movement is still finding its way and that is shown by the tensions between democracy and a self-appointed vanguard; however, one thing is striking and that is the fact that although it is principally concerned with issues immediate to it like the raising of tuition fees and abolition of EMA there are components within it that are drawing broader lessons and considering wider issues (like the demands to place upon Labour councillors, for example) and the role of the banks etc,etc. The challenge is how we maintain the momentum which spontaneous struggle will only carry so far and how we deal with the issue of burn-out. We also have to be careful of leaving people behind; something that happened noticeably during the occupation, and ensure that the movement’s energies are not spent unwisely at this early stage.

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Filed under: Activism, Editorials, , , , , , ,

2 Responses

  1. […] Myself and Jane Watkinson have co-authored a report of the ‘Day X’ Demo in Leeds….you can find it here on Broad Left Blogging…. […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Phil BC, DarrellGoodliffe and Jane Watkinson, Broad Left Blogging. Broad Left Blogging said: Editorial by @darrellgoodliff and @JaneWatkinson re report of Leeds' #Dayx Protests! : http://wp.me/pXkBd-44 […]

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