Thursday, 7 April 2011

Student Demonstration Time

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog entry and I see the last time I wrote it was also about a demonstration. My love for a march has been exposed: today, the students were out, thousands of them.

I watched them stream down from a local university at 10am. I think the NUJ would to be amazed at such a good turn out at such an ungodly hour. Yet there they were, pouring down the hill and making a splendid racket.

A white-coated fellow with Joker-inspired makeup gave me a handy bullet-pointed piece of paper called “¿Terroristas?” detailing what they were protesting about and why, in fact, they weren’t terrorists.

Rather than terrorists, they looked like medical students trying to improve their education system. They were largely made up of thousands of self-marshalling young people with a bit of makeup, chanting, holding banners and making their point. I’d not seen anything so orderly since the Countryside Alliance march I’d chanced upon years before. Admittedly, the students had considerably less tweed.

With all the subtlety of a radical nudist among the Countryside Alliance, there were those (nearly all male) attempting to retain their anonymity because they were self-consciously Up To No Good.

They were easy to spot: self-importantly parading on the periphery, usually clad in black, scarves over faces and often carrying a stick. Presumably the scarves were to keep their identity safe, while their manner screamed “Here! Hit me with a baton”.

The sense of rebellion was spreading to those with their uni years far in the future. I felt rather sorry for the trainee policeman sweeping up outside the police-training school, while three fourteen-year-old schoolgirls chanted, “Pig!” at him. Already at a safe distance, they then ran away giving him the finger. He just looked slightly lost.

Meanwhile, the demonstration was building. Three blocks down the hill, thousands of students were parading into the centre of town. There is an incomparable excitement about such crowds when the cheers, whistles and drums echo and accumulate into an inescapable, all-encompassing roar. It’s a magnificent sense of shared humanity even if you’re in no way connected.

While predominantly young, there were also a lot of people considerably older than me. Sadly, it was also a graffiti free-for-all. Three times I saw scarf face-wearers (twice girls) spray-paint on walls, while a stick-carrying friend stood guard and checked the spelling.

Getting hungry, I wandered down to Subway to find it had had to close and the windows were covered in graffiti. “Neo-liberal bread” someone had written, failing to elaborate further than by signing off with a feminist symbol. Someone else had rather melodramatically added “Study or death”.

Elsewhere, “No to the US military bases” and “Down with the paramilitary government”. These are perfectly reasonable points of view in context but irrelevant to the march. Sadly, tomorrow the graffiti will be all that remains and the march will appear to entirely have been made up of arseholes.

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