Leeds’ #dayx2 protest, occupations and reflections…

Today’s dayx2 protests saw a different approach from the police in Leeds than dayx’s sensible policing, which had seen the police backing off when we decided to change course, for example. Today was strikingly different, with the police pursuing ketteling (despite contra claims by some LibDems – we were ketteled) for around 20mins. In response, the protesters chanted “police, get out the way, get out the way please” and “let us march”. But still, the police kept us there. There were a few scuffles between protesters and police as we were prevented from going down a certain route. I heard a policeman ordering a steward to tell the protesters to go an opposite direction – she rightfully told him no. The march was again very vibrant and clearly a movement with a mission.

I didn’t catch the events at the attempted occupation of the Ziff building, our administration centre, but there are reports of police violence; hitting a phone out of a protesters hand because they were recording whereas another woman was pushed to the floor by the police – some footage here:

A window was also smashed; and no, the students didn’t do it. It was the head of security. I can’t comment in detail on this, I am just reporting what I have read and seen – apparently, the 6 day running occupation are talking about denouncing the action that took place at the Ziff building. Now, whilst I don’t know all the facts; judging on what I have seen, it would be wrong to do so, as people had every right to attempt to occupy the Ziff building. It is an obvious target, and was why the police were more proactive in stopping protesters occupying. As @OccupierLeeds have rightly said – (this is an extract from the University of Leeds blog):

There was much debate outside about the legitimacy of this manoeuvre, and who was behind it. A steward from the march and one of this last week’s occupier declared that this had not been agreed as action by the occupiers, and expressed concern for the School pupils. In contrast, @OccupiedLeeds declared “what exactly is @OccupiedLeeds other than those occupying”, suggesting the Ziff occupation had legitimacy in the eyes of some current occupiers.

and

@OccupiedLeeds tweeted that “the ziff occupation only had short-term aims” which is a credible account, and that “talk of breakways occupiers is silly. We’re a many pronged approach. Actions are spontaneous unplanned and organic”.

Exactly! Direct action is spontaneous – you shouldn’t have to pre-organise to have a ‘legitimate’ occupation – it just happens!

A more specific point I would like to raise about the movement relates to a speech by a disabled activist I saw part of at the recent Coalition of Resistance conference. This was probably the best bit of my conference experience, which was very short and badly spent as I was ill for most of the day!  She talked about the need for inclusiveness within the student movement; this is an important issue to raise, and something we have to think about.

Again, counter to some of the LibDem assertions, this is much more than an anti-education cut movement. Yes, education cuts are central; but to claim that you are only protesting to protect yourself from the cuts, in some self-interested vain attempt of political purity is wrong. Instead, we need to be a collective inclusive movement that fights for all those who are set to be wrongly affected by these cuts – these unnecessary ideologically driven cuts. This takes me back to the disability movement; I have only just learnt about their website against the cuts documenting their protests. There is definitely a need for better coordination and possibly more anti-welfare focused protests.

So if the LibDems are feeling uneasy when they are marching with not only students against higher fees etc., but people who are generally against what this government is doing – get over it. You can’t have your cake and eat it. These protests are a symbol of how detested this government is. And this movement will only grow with time – but we have to make sure that we include the voices that are often silenced – only collectivity can make this movement stronger.

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