A national student demo named ‘#Demo2012: Educate, Employ, Empower’ is set to take place on Wednesday 21 November. It has been organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) as a result of delegates voting for a national demo during the annual conference in April. Although the protest is centred on the three themes of education, employment and empowerment, it is not calling for anything specific. Instead, it appears to be an opportunity for those participating to express their disaffection with the coalition government and its ‘broken promises’, which students feel have left them in debt, unemployed and unable to get on the property ladder.
The march will assemble from 11:00 at Temple Place before departing at 11:45. The route will pass through Victoria Embankment, over Westminster Bridge and will end at Kennington Park. A rally in Kennington Park will take place from 14:00 until 15:00. The route will be heavily occupied by demonstrators and surrounding road and rail networks may be congested. A shorter route for those unable to travel the whole way will start from Lambeth North Tube Station which may also see congestion as a result. Kingsway may see heavy road traffic in the morning as it is the designated coach drop stop point where those travelling from across the country will be dropped off prior to the march. Afternoon coach pick up points will be in Kennington Road, Kennington Park Road and Clapham Road which are likely to also be heavily congested. Logistical details are still subject to change, with amendments being listed on the official demonstration website.
Numerous other organisations are supporting the march including the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts which is also coordinating walkouts among school and college students on the day. Overall, the day appears to have been well planned and coordinated and the NUS have placed a strong emphasis upon the day being orchestrated peacefully, especially if it is to be successful.
Nevertheless, the protest will be the first national demonstration called by the NUS since the anti-tuition fee marches in 2010 when the Conservative party headquarters were attacked and clashes were seen in Parliament Square, resulting in 393 arrests. Since the 2010 march, further grievances have come to light such as the scrapping of EMA (educational maintenance allowance) by the government, resulting in many 16-19 year old college students living in low income households being without financial assistance. Moreover, NUS president Liam Burns has aired his own concerns that despite attempting to mitigate risk, it is impossible to prevent people with more violent intentions from attending on the day.
As with previous student and anti-cuts protests, we maintain that government offices and corporate premises are the most likely targets of any violent action on the day and small groups intent on causing damage will be hard to detect. However, policing is likely to be elevated to counter the threat posed by such groups, many of whom may have already attempted to air grievances during the national anti-austerity march which took place less than a month ago on 20 October, without significant trouble resulting. We will continue to observe and report any further significant developments in advance of the day.