By Ben Wilson & Delara Shakib
King’s Student Media’s newly formed ‘KSM: Inside Edge’ team assemble outside Birkbeck University, ready to cover the day’s protest.
Protestors begin to congregate in front of the University of London Union Building on Malet Street in Bloomsbury at roughly 14:00. The Union, which has served in the past as a key hub in the organisation of student protest, faces imminent closure in the summer of 2014.
President of ULU Michael Chessum gives an interview to press on the upcoming day of action. Chessum was arrested for breaching Section 11 of the Public Order Act on November 14, after failing to notify police of the route of a procession protesting ULU closure which had taken place the previous day. He has denounced recent police action as “a transparent attempt to assault, intimidate and deflate protest”.
The SOAS Samba Band brings an air of musicality to the proceedings, giving the protest something of a carnival atmosphere.
UCU members were in strong attendance in solidarity with the students. Todays action came in response to alleged police brutality taking place at an occupation in support of the London Living Wage Campaign, of which the UCU is an active proponent.
Larger numbers soon begin to arrive, bolstering the protest and spreading out across Malet Street.
Daniel Cooper, Vice President of ULU, appears on the Union steps to join the crowd outside.
The infamous Black Bloc joins the protest surreptitiously, bearing iconic red and black anarchist flags.
Things got slightly farcical with the arrival of a troupe of clowns – perhaps a tongue-in-cheek comment on recent student/university tensions becoming something along the lines of a circus.
Their idea of violent protest wasn’t quite the same as everyone elses’…
The two groups made quite an interesting contrast protesting side-by-side.
All of this is watched over with great interest from above, as two men record events unfolding on the streets below from the roof of Birkbeck.
The march begins to move from the steps of ULU towards Senate House Library with a thick wall of press and reporters preceding it.
A line of Black Bloc members front the procession down Malet Street.
The slogan ‘A.C.A.B’ (All Cops Are Bastards) has recently caused controversy after KCLSU Vice President for Academic Affairs Areeb Ullah tweeted it on his KCLSU Twitter account, shortly before being arrested at the December 4 protest. A motion presented at an emergency KCL Student Council meeting on December 10 suggested an official condemnation of the acronym and Ullah for his use of it, but it failed to pass.
Members of the Black Bloc were highly distrustful of the media coverage attracted by their striking appearance and notoriety, frequently obstructing reporters attempts to photograph them.
These guys, on the other hand, didn’t seem to take themselves quite so seriously.
Some protestors built shields from paper and styrofoam to represent their favourite pieces of literature.
Dubbed the ‘Book Bloc’, it seemed ironically apt that they were using their literary creations to march on a library. There’s also been a lot of debate over whether the Senate House building was the inspiration for ‘The Ministry of Truth’ in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, for all you trivia lovers out there.
The march comes to a halt at the gates of Senate House, with chants of “Education for the masses, not just for the ruling classes”.
In the wake of recent demonstrations the University of London has taken out an injunction that prohibits occupational protest on campus property until June 4, 2014. The University claims this is to prevent “violent and intimidating” behaviour taking place on campus.
A group of Black Bloc protestors begin to push their way through the gathered crowd towards the entrance of Senate House, with shouts of “Out the f*cking way journos, there’s a protest coming through”.
The group of protestors that eventually start forcing open the gates is vastly outnumbered by the journalists recording them.
Too impatient to wait for the gates to be broken, some begin to vault the adjoining railings into the Senate House courtyard.
The gates are soon forced open to widespread cheering from those outside, who then flood into the premises.
Protestors set fire to a wheelie bin, sparking the BBC headline ‘Uni Students In Bin Blaze Rampage’. The headline of the article has since been changed to ‘University of London Protest: Students Protest Across City’.
By this point staff members were safely locked inside campus property, with copies of the University’s injunction strapped to the windows to warn off any would-be intruders.
Protestors soon carried on with their march, exiting the Senate House premises.
The SOAS Samba Band reappear, lightening the tense atmosphere that has followed the storming of the gates at Senate House.
They soon become a rally point for the somewhat directionless protest to converge on and regroup.
But it’s not long before the Black Bloc re-emerge to take advantage of the freshly reorganised protest and direct it towards another march on Senate House.
A ‘Students Against The University’ banner is unfurled by the Black Bloc to lead the second march.
This time, protestors are met by a hastily erected barricade of chain fences and wheelie bins at the library’s side entrance.
But it’s not too long before these are overcome as well.
Members of the Black Bloc use a wheelie bin as a battering ram to try and force entry into the Senate House Lobby, although by this point the main body of protestors had returned to the plaza outside SOAS.
London Student Editor Oscar Webb walks away from the action. Webb was arrested during the December 5th protest, despite picture evidence proving he was clearly brandishing a press pass.
A second wave of wheelie bin carnage is left in the wake of the protestors as they yet again exit Senate House grounds.
In the middle of writing ‘Education Emancipation’. In July of this year a protestor for the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign, which has become incorporated into the London Living Wage campaign, was arrested for writing in chalk on the pavement in front of the ULU building.
SOAS becomes the staging ground of the next phase of the protest. However, it’s soon announced that the inquest into the death of Mark Duggan, shot dead by police in 2012, is taking place at the nearby Royal Courts of Justice.
The procession picks up a new momentum as it advances down Kingsway towards Aldwych, following a collective decision to protest outside the Mark Duggan inquest.
As the first police officers encountered by the march, these two took a fair bit of abuse.
Taking over both lanes, they soon begin to block rush hour traffic to chants of “Who killed Mark Duggan? Police killed Mark Duggan!”
Some took a more individual approach to this tactic.
Nope, he really isn’t moving…
Arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice, protestors resume chants of “Who killed Mark Duggan?”
A police presence begins to amass at this point, with our reporters counting at least four riot vans attending the scene. At this point they don’t seem to be reacting, despite a rising level of aggression from the crowd.
Police vehicles are surrounded by a sizeable crowd of protestors, with one climbing onto the bonnet of the first van.
Once more the protest leaves its rallying point as quickly as it arrives, dispersing from the front of the Royal Courts of Justice and moving past St. Clement Danes Church.
The march proceeds along the Strand, past the King’s College campus. At this point there seems to be no firmly recognised objective in mind, although the direction of London’s more political landmarks (Westminster, Downing Street and Whitehall) becomes a general consensus.
‘The matrices of protest within social convention’… or something like that. We just thought it looked quite trippy.
The socio-economic tensions of the march become more apparent as it moves towards the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street, with members of the crowd chanting “David Cameron, f*ck off back to Eton”.
A solitary police car outside Charing Cross station is surrounded, but it is not long before protestors lose interest and continue with the procession.
No matter how tense the situation is, it’s never too serious for a little immature humour.
Protestors soon began to find gates being shut in their faces. First at the Horse Guards Parade near St. James’ Park…
…and then at Downing Street, followed by the Palace of Westminster.
This guy wasn’t happy about it.
Neither was he.
Nelson Mandela’s memorial looks on as protestors file past, with one shout of “Nelson wouldn’t have liked this!”
With an objective once again beginning to diminish, the march heads in the direction of Marble Arch.
Police begin to arrive in greater numbers as the protest appears to become more aimless in nature.
There seemed to be a prevailing sense that they were there as a precaution against any possible violent turn of events in the crowded city centre.
Police start to establish a presence within the crowd, taking a more active role in controlling the direction of the procession.
Many protestors took unkindly to this heightened involvement on the part of the police, although from what we saw it resulted in no more than heated exchanges of words. Soon after this the procession separated into smaller groups, with reports from Twitter of three separate kettles being formed in Piccadilly, Mayfair and Whitehall.
These two definitely seem to have the right idea.
Although not everyone seemed to be sharing in their festive cheer.
Giedre Balseviciute, Head of Post Production at KingsTV, sums up everyone’s feelings by the end of the day.
As the crowds disperse, protestors and reporters alike head home to leave only the trace of the day’s events in chalk and burnt wheelie bins.