Who says the spirit of 1968 is dead? I am on the joint NUS/UCU demo against the cuts today. I get off at Westminster Tube Station, walk past Peter Hitchens who is wheeling his bike towards the platforms. That was weird. I give him a punky sneer. I am in now in protest mode. I emerge into the daylight and join what looks like the head of the march on Whitehall. I take my camera out and proceed to take some pictures of placards. I then notice that the battery is dead. Typical. I haven’t used the bloody thing for months and the battery is dead. What is that all about? Now I have to use the mobile phone. Groan.
We head past Westminster Palace. I stop at College Green to see if there are any telly crews. There was no one that I recognized.How odd. On past Thames House and MI5. Next, Millbank Tower. A really ugly building that was once home to Nu Labour is now the home of the Tories. Is that a coincidence? This looks interesting. There are loads of banners and placards and lots of noise. Then I notice that a fire has been started. People are heaping placards onto the fire. Yeah, this is beginning to look really good.
I squeeze myself as close to the entrance of Millbank Tower as I possibly can. It’s hard work. The large plate glass window to the left of the entrance is beginning to move. Suddenly objects ranging from eggs to placard sticks to stones being thrown at the window. A large crack appears. This is a laminated window. I move back a bit and notice that some cobbles on the driveway have been ripped up. The mood is angry. I move back a little more and spot some anarchists moving towards the building. They move like commandos. This looks interesting. I follow them but they melt into the crowd. Something is going to happen really soon.
I move around to the other side of the building. I can see Mike Sergeant filing a report by mobile phone to the BBC. I wonder if anyone has spotted him? I can already imagine how the BBC News Channel is reporting this. But no sign of Sky…yet. I peer through the side window and look into the foyer. I can see that an advance guard has occupied the foyer. There’s a woman student dancing about with a police cap on. It’s quite a funny sight. It’s almost like 1968 again. I can’t believe how unprepared the cops and the Tories are for this.
Millbank Tower is now completely under siege. I can see Tory party workers looking down on us. No change there then. Suddenly the crowd cheers. I look up to see the band of anarchists on the roof of the building. Their red and black flags fluttering in the chilly November breeze. There’s more pushing. More objects are being thrown. Finally, the sound of breaking glass. The window is finally smashed open. Protesters pour in.
I move back on to Millbank and study the scene. Then from my right, a column of riot police appear. They form a line across the driveway to prevent any more of us from surging forward. But it’s too little too late. I notice that one of the riot cops has a first aid cross on his helmet. Oh, the irony. I suspect that the police have a plan to ‘kettle’ the driveway. I walk towards the Tate and see even more protesters on their way to Millbank Tower. I take the right past the Tate and the Chelsea School of Art and notice that they have a barbecue going. What style.
I’m home now. Watching the reports on the BBC News Channel. They’re trying to make the claim that a group of “hardcore activists hijacked the demonstration”. It’s as if to suggest that anarchists can’t be students and vice versa. Nonsense. Mike Sergeant is saying that “most of the students condemned the ‘violence'” and “they’re anarchists, they don’t reflect out views”. What tripe. There was no violence. The media speaks with the master’s voice.
We aren’t going to go away. Get used to it.