Some Thoughts on the British Tuition Protests

Posted on December 10, 2010



In this post, I’m going to butt my nosy face into political matters even farther away from me than Toronto! If you’re at all interested in student activism, you should have been following the Student protests in London and resulting police brutality that occurred today. I’ve been trying to mark papers despite the presence of an enormously distracting twitter feed all day, so I don’t have it in me to write a well organized or edited post. I’m just musing. Here are some thoughts:

1) I have nothing but respect for the thousands of demonstrators who went out in the cold to protest the government cutbacks. Despite a near-guarantee of being kettled for hours on end, they went to Parliament Square en masse to stand up for themselves when politicans wouldn’t. Truly inspiring.

2) Double props to the demonstrators from a purely self-interested perspective. I’m hoping to study for my Master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh next semester, and if the fees get hiked (especially for international students-yikes!), then I’ll be looking at an awful lot of debt. So I owe you one.

3) Can the civilized world please please please tell its police forces that kettling is not an acceptable crowd control tactic? Police do not have the right to detain huge groups of people for hours with no cause. Of course, the people aren’t being formally detained. They’re just being put in a position where they can’t walk away without giving the police grounds to charge them with assaulting an officer. It’s really quite a convenient loophole for megalomaniacal police chiefs and ranking officers. Let’s close it.

4) I don’t mean to downplay the severity of what happened in London one bit, but even by the standards of London police, the G20 security unit that was working in Toronto this summer comes off looking pretty bad. Let’s compare:

Toronto                                                                                                                               London

Tens of thousands of protesters                                                                                       Tens of thousands of protesters

Dramatic instances of vandalism:                                                                                  Dramatic instances of vandalism:






Total arrested: Over 1100 (Over 300 per day)                                                                                 Total arrested: 22

It seems that the Toronto Police come off looking like a gang of violent thugs even when measured relative to other gangs of violent thugs.

5) This also doesn’t really reflect that well on the Canadian student movement. The Canadian Federation of Students is correct when they keep telling us that student solidarity is necessary to pressure those in power to reduce tuition fees and improve the quality of education. It’s just that you don’t need a bloated bureaucracy that costs millions of dollars and makes a habit of suing its member unions to have this solidarity. These protests were more effective and inspiring than any CFS day of action, and they had far less in the way of overhead costs and unnecessary legalistic coercion.

6) Mainstream media fail.

7) A big fuck you to the governing coalition that decided to spit in the face of the tens of thousands gathered outside and protesting across the country.  Luckily, it’s not over with that.  As Adam Ramsay, who was caught in the kettle for several hours, puts it:

We’re just getting started. And now that our alienated generation has woken from it’s slumber, now that our muscles are flexed, who knows what we can do next.

Good luck, guys. I’ll be rooting for you, and I know you’ll root for me when it’s my turn to stare down some riot cops.

Posted in: Uncategorized