Nobody would argue that in the democracy we live in, every citizen has the right to protest peacefully whenever he/she feels injustice in society. This is exactly what students have been doing since the new government initiative regarding tuition fees has been proposed. The media however, have picked up on the minority who have been violently protesting and, instead of the protests coming across as peaceful, recent headlines give the impression of ’riots’ taking place.
But do these marches actually make a difference? Looking at it from a historical perspective, yes they do. It was the peasants’’ revolt in 1381 which heavily contributed to the formation of democracy in Britain, the Gordan Riots in 1780 saw 60,000 protest against anti-catholic sentiment which had a detrimental affect on Britain’s reputation, and in 1990 the poll tax riots lead to the law being repealed.
This time however, my intuition tells me that, if students do not continue to march consistently, strategically and with adamance, the Government will not take any action. I believe students should go to the street and protest if they feel passionately enough, instead of just circulating anti-Government messages on social networking sites like facebook (like a lot of my friends do).
Eric Cantona, a former football player has an interesting idea. A video on youtube has recorded him advocating a sort of financial anarchy, whereby, instead of people protesting on the street, they remove all of their money from their bank account. This will lead to the collapse of banks, and the Government, of course, will need to take action. This struck me at first as a clever idea, and I wanted to share it with all my fellow students to see if this is a viable protest method to oppose the tuition fees. But once thought through, his idea is actually flawed on many levels. Firstly, students generally speaking, have little money in their bank accounts-apart from their loans and grants of course, so what money would they take out? Secondly, if one was to bring all their money home, and say, put in under their mattress, this would lead to an increase in crime rate. Also, banks would not be able to offer loans to small businesses which would destroy many jobs across the country.
Malcolm X once said ‘early in life I had realised that if you wanted something you better make some noise’ and also famously said ‘by any means necessary.’ Sukant Chandan, founder of ‘Sons of Malcolm Blog’ believes in pacifistic civil disobedience, where- students go to key places like town halls and surgeries and prevent them from operating. This in effect, will make the local ’Government ungovernable’ and will force them to listen to those who are protesting and also take action. But this idea, again, seems like a form of anarchy.
Even the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King did things which made them liable and accountable to the law of the country, despite being pacifists. However breaking the law by pacifistic means is one thing, but causing criminal damage which can injure or even kill people (like some student’s have done) is another and is unacceptable on any level.
What ever Government came into power in Britain this year, would have imposed harsh fiscal cuts to society. It is true that austerity levels would have varied across different political parties, yet, cuts would have been imposed nevertheless. What students are angry about is not the fact that student fees will increase by a little, but that fees will drastically increase from £3,000 to £9,000. The prospect of being in treble the debt current graduates now face is something not very easy to digest for current students. Carry on marching would be my advice, march until the Government have to once again go back on their word, and tell students there voices have been heard and answered.