The government voted in favour of the rise in tuition fees in December and in doing so, invoked uproar among students of all ages in England. Prior to the vote, thousands of students, teachers and young people all over the country descended on the streets in an attempt to alter the minds of the politicians in the House of Commons.
As young people in this country continue to protest against EMA cuts and slashes in university spending, they head towards £9,000 a year fees. It begs the question, does protesting work?
When the media begin to lose sight of the issue… the protest starts to lose credibility
Last year’s student protests went as far as the next in line to the throne and his wife being attacked in their car on Regent Street. Not even an attack on the Royals was enough to make politicians think twice; it seemed the decision was only ever going to go one way.
The protests sparked the usual media frenzy, and the pages were once again filled with stories of violence and victims. It seemed the message of the march got lost in the crowds and the unity of purpose that is needed when people protest was only found in small groups. Graffiti, and vandalism aimed at the Tories diluted the one issue many were fighting against. With major MPs in the coalition government going back on their word, it seemed to become an expression of anger towards them rather than fighting the tuition fee rise.
When the media begin to lose sight of the issue that most people are trying to get across, and focus on the injuries, police behaviour, and violence the protest starts to lose credibility. The masked faces, the throwing of missiles and the destruction of Topshop in Central London fuels headlines of criminality and tragedy. If the whole mass protest unified on one objective, a mass sit-in or march on one route, the papers would only have one thing to write about.
Unity of purpose is key to a successful protest. Greenpeace’s Brent Spar campaign in 1995 epitomises just that. Protesters occupied the Brent Spar oil rig for three weeks in an attempt to stop the 14,500 tonne installation being dumped into the sea. Greenpeace took on the UK government and the then largest oil company in the world, Shell UK. They fought off water cannons and won the campaign stopping Brent Spar and many other oil rigs becoming ocean waste.
Whether the issue became diluted or the march ruined by the few looking for a riot, one thing can be said, it galvanised the youth of today more than many have seen before.
“Protesting does… inspire people to become more politically active and make them aware of freedom of speech.”
The tuition fee protests did not achieve the goal it wanted, like many protests in the past. But something protesting does achieve is to inspire people to become more politically active and make them aware of freedom of speech, teaching them that sitting there and taking it isn’t the only option. The more people protest, the more I believe we are keeping the politicians on their toes. Like any other human in the world they want to be liked, and a mass demonstration of hatred towards them and their ideas could perhaps alter their decision making the next time round. The student protests were an exceptional example of how many young people are switched on to politics and the proportion of the vote they now carry – it just has to be used.