It was referred to as ‘Day X’, the ‘Day Parliament Would Vote On Tuition Fees’. For us, the momentum had to continue.
When I first arrived in Parliament Square yesterday, however, it seemed that the opposite had happened. It was good to see thousands of students packing out the Square as “our” politicians sat cocooned in a bubble just across the road, but the lack of action was somewhat disheartening. You don’t bring down governments by standing around and shuffling your feet.
It wasn’t long before my qualms were settled. People began running toward the far end of Parliament Square, and we followed. As we got to the front of the crowd, it was clear that the police were desperate for violence. This does not come as a surprise; of course, it is the job of the police to protect the government. Nothing is a bigger threat to the government than the scenes we saw on the last student march of November 30th; thousands of students spontaneously marching across central London, without permission from the police, and not an ounce of violence. So how do they combat that threat? They attack us.
When we reached the front, the batons began to fly. One came landing straight onto my left shoulder, sending a sharp, shooting pain down my arm. Others were taking blows to the head. Children, women, men, all being brutalised by the police. Then the horses came, horses that could easily kill people, but we would not budge. We held our ground.
Suddenly, four policemen grabbed my shoulders and pulled me out of my wheelchair. My friends and younger brother struggled to pull me back, but were beaten away with batons. The police carried me away. Around five minutes later, my younger brother was also forced through, the wheelchair still in his hands.
A crowd of around 200 had by now gathered on the other side of the police lines. We turned, and began marching, running, in the opposite direction. Morale was high. Anger at the government was even higher. Kicks and punches were thrown as we passed the Department of Education.
Eventually, we found ourselves back at Parliament Square, this time approaching from the side of the now-infamous Millbank. Riot police came charging our way, but now they looked weak. Mounted police were just behind, waiting to charge.
Somehow, me and Finlay managed to weave our way through the police line. We found ourselves in a large no-mans-land, in between the riot police trying to stop the crowd, and the police horses getting ready to charge. I turned in my wheelchair to face the police. “Move out of the way!” one of the mounted police shouted at me. I shook my head.
From the corner of my eye, I spotted one of the policemen from the earlier incident. He recognised me immediately. Officer KF936 came charging towards me. Tipping the wheelchair to the side, he pushed me onto the concrete, before grabbing my arms and dragging me across the road. The crowd of 200 ran and surrounded him. I got back up and stood in front of the horses.
When I finally got home at 5am, exhausted but pleased at what can only be seen as a victory, I found that the picture of me being pulled from my wheelchair had been creating a bit of a storm online. But I am not the real victim. The real victims of yesterday are people like Alfie Meadows; a 20 year-old student who was rushed to hospital for emergency brain surgery after internal bleeding caused by police truncheons.
We need a change, and we need it now.