It’s amazing the kind of news we get and the kind of news we don’t. Apparently, there was a massive riot in the UK last week. What started off as a peaceful protest turned into, what they’re calling, the Millbank Tower Riots. Now, we hear about riots all the time but there is a reason why this particular riot stood out for me.
Besides being impressively written in an immersive and somber tone by Laurie Penny of New Statesman, the reason behind the riot echo much of what is going on in the U.S. 52,000 angry students and school children marched through London angry at the country’s treatment of their public education and other public services.
There are three things to note about this riot, the first of its kind in Britain for decades, that aren’t being covered by the press. The first is that not all of the young people who have come to London to protest are university students. Lots are school pupils, and many of the 15, 16 and 17 year olds present have been threatened with expulsion or withdrawal of their EMA benefits if they chose to protest today. They are here anyway, alongside teachers, young working people and unemployed graduates.
What unites them? A chant strikes up: “We’re young! We’re poor! We won’t pay any more!”
People are outraged over fee increases, cuts in social services and a government that protesters claim are more interested in helping to correct the failures of the rich than the hard work of the poor working class.
They spent their childhoods working hard and doing what they were told with the promise that one day, far in the future, if they wished very hard and followed their star, their dreams might come true. They spent their young lives being polite and articulate whilst the government lied and lied and lied to them again. They are not prepared to be polite and articulate any more. They just want to scream until something changes. Perhaps that’s what it takes to be heard.
“Look, we all saw what happened at the big anti-war protest back in 2003,” says Tom, a postgraduate student from London. “Bugger all, that’s what happened. Everyone turned up, listened to some speeches and then went home. It’s sad that it’s come to this, but…” he gestures behind him to the bonfires burning in front of the shattered windows of Tory HQ. “What else can we do?”
I talk about this often with friends. We discuss public education and social services and the move towards the privatization of such things. We talk, as I’m sure you have, of the current world economic crisis and the bankers and financial investors who received financial support despite their failings. Well, they’re rioting in London over it. I wonder how long until this happens in the U.S.
[Also, I stumbled onto a piece from the Telegraph Blogs written by a gentleman name Neil O’Brien. According to O’Brien, the tuition fee hikes were fair. You can read it here. What do you think?]