Demonstrators from Manchester were among the first to break into Tory headquarters in London last week, as up to 50,000 marched on Embankment to protest education cuts and a rise in tuition fees.
Following the action in London, an emergency meeting was held at the University of Manchester Students’ Union (UMSU) the next day, which culminated in a spontaneous occupation of the finance department at the University. The demonstrators demanded that the University open its account to reveal “when and where, upon which staff and which departments the cuts will fall.”
Members of security staff at the University have unofficially expressed support for the demonstrators, citing concerns about cuts to their own workforce.
The peaceful occupation received coverage in the national media, just one day after protesters in London were berated for acts of mass vandalism at the Millbank complex, which houses the Conservative Party’s head office.
The violence at the national demonstration marks the most vitriolic response to the coalition government’s spending cuts so far.
One unidentified demonstrator threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of the building, eliciting boos and chants of “stop throwing shit” from the crowds below. A Sun photographer claims that the missile “missed [his] head by inches.”
The march was organised by the National Union of Students (NUS), though NUS President Aaron Porter has censured the action at Tory headquarters, describing the protesters there as “absolutely deluded.”
Porter told The Mancunion, “Let me be clear: I absolutely condemn the actions of anyone who thinks it’s appropriate to use violence.
“We organised a peaceful protest, which 50,000 students came along to, to make a serious point about cuts to university funding and the trebling of tuition fees.
Porter continued: “I’m really worried we’ve been completely undermined by a minority of people who came with preconceived plans to cause trouble. We don’t represent them and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Amanda Walters, Campaigns Officer for UMSU, was present at Millbank as demonstrators invaded the building. In response to Porter’s statement she said, “It’s a shame that he’s not supporting his students. He’s claiming that those [inside Tory headquarters] were anarchists and yobs and weren’t affiliated with NUS. But I was there; I’m part of NUS.
“Many students that were there were also NUS, there were other Executive members from other Students’ Unions, and there were ordinary people, ordinary staff and ordinary students. It wasn’t just anarchists going into the building.”
She continued, “It’s time to start using other tactics and that’s why I think the occupation [of Millbank] was a good idea and I think it was successful.
“It was a shame that people got hurt and a shame that people were throwing things off the roof, both of those things I condemn, but I do condone occupations.”