#Demo2012 is scheduled for the 21st of November, and will see thousands of students descend on the capital to have their voices heard. The problem with the protest is that their voices do not seem to be putting forward a coherent message in any sense. This protest does not seem to be fighting any particular issue merely offering an opportunity for disgruntled students to vent. For this reason it is hard to criticise any of their goals, as no one really knows what they are beyond the 3 banner headlines ‘Education, Employment and Empowerment’ which spans such a huge section of social policy it all seems a little diffused and ineffectual. The last event on this scale in the UK was a direct reaction to events in parliament; the tuition fee rise, which let us not forget, is two years old now. This protest does not seem to have a stimulus, mandate or reason, beyond protest for the sake of protest. This is not a defence of the Coalitions policy but a critique of the direction this protest is taking and how it is counterproductive.
Firstly if the protest does not know what it wants, with a set of clear demands then how can any parliament be expected to listen and respond. A comparison could be made between this and the Occupy movement, which did not seem to have any particular demands beyond having their opinions and obvious dissatisfaction heard. The difference being that the Occupy movement scapegoated the bankers and their greed, something which the public can easily latch onto. Whereas student protests run the very serious risk of demonising themselves; last time students marched, the news stories surrounded the outbreaks of violence across the city of London, and all the work of those who protested peacefully was tarnished with a highly negative brush.
Are there not better uses of resources that will help to achieve some of the aims that students are so concerned by? Will the funding of outreach programmes better help pressured students, rather than a protest which will have no benefit to the movement’s cause (used in its most nebulous sense).
Student bodies were of huge importance to issues such as the civil rights movements, groups such as SNCC were influential in pioneering the sit-ins and other critical events. What was key was that they were built around a core set of ideals with an ultimate goal, in that instance racial equality. The fact that student unions are supporting this motion as whole bodies seems somewhat ludicrous as these bodies represent huge bands of people, many of whom accept the fee rises and do not feel victimised. In the same way that the students who protest, are not all violent, students cannot be grouped by our unions into this bracket that we are all being unfairly persecuted, as not all students feel this way. It is not the beliefs that are the issue, it is the method for getting them heard.