UK: The Battle of Millbank and Occupation at Manchester University

November 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm (Building Occupations, Student Occupations)

Personal accounts of Wednesday’s demonstration against fees and education cuts, the occupation of Millbank tower, and the occupation of Manchester University’s finance department.

By Mark Harrison

The NUS and police were completely unprepared for the 50,000 angry students who descended on Central London. The demonstration was completely chaotic, people were travelling in all directions, hand made placards ranged from the uninspired ‘keep the cap’, the “hilarious” (David Cameron engaging in anal sex with Nick Clegg), to the visionary “University for Everyone”. Finding the much discussed ‘free education bloc’ was an impossibility, let along finding your own comrades.

Personally, direction was only given to the demonstration when a NUS steward said to me, “Don’t go off the right, that’s Tory HQ, carry on forward for the NUS route”. It seems that great minds think alike as most chose to ignore the mind numbing speeches made by NUS and UCU tops and aimed for the headquarters of the traditional party of the bourgeoisie.

I had not realised that the demonstration was set to pass this building, if I had it would have been common sense to expect the events that followed. The youth were riled up and seemed determined to occupy the roof of every bus stop en-route. There may have been some semi conspiratorial plotting but we would have seen the same scenes anyway. Anger at the cuts has been focused on the Conservative Party, “Tory Scum” was the slogan of the day.

Some protesters were able to force their way right inside the Millbank building, eyewitnesses report absolute havoc. Attempting to rip up everything whether it was nailed down or not. Windows were smashed at the higher reaches of the building, and graffiti sprayed around. Thousands of students built a bonfire out of placards outside the building whilst protesters emerged on the roof, some unfurled a Revolution banner, one waved an Antifa flag whilst another waved the traditional red and black flag. They were received with an enormous cheer, and responded by showering us with Elastoplasts, a fire extinguisher and copies of Socialist Worker.

The police were finally able to gather enough numbers to stop people entering the building en masse although students completely took over the reception area. A sound system started playing dubstep leading to a Reclaim The Streets carnival atmosphere.

A second contingent of police was brought in to try and disperse the crowd but they were actually driven away by the sheer weight of numbers and the amount of placards thrown at them.

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