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Monday, December 13, 2010

Increasing Violence and Repression Against UK Students


Photo by ucloccupation
The recent repression of student and teacher protesters in Britain has been the worst in decades. The police have savagely beaten protesters and carried out mass arrests during and after the demonstrations, utilizing both standard policing practices and counter-insurgency espionage tactics.

In the most recent demonstrations, at least 50 protesters were injured by police. Disabled journalist and blogger Jody McIntyre was beaten by police and yanked from his wheelchair on two separate occasions. Friends and family who tried to defend him were also beaten by batons. Numerous minors were also beaten, one so badly that he was vomiting blood. Alfie Meadows suffered a stroke and required hours of brain surgery after being beaten by cops.

Students are protesting the trebling of university fees and plans to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance for poor high school students.  However, they are also furious that PM Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg are calling the cuts necessary to prevent future debt. In other words, British youth are supposedly being screwed today, to protect them tomorrow. Yet the cuts will prevent many from getting a college education in the first place, thus screwing them today AND tomorrow.


Students Under Attack in the U.S.

Consider the domestic parallels. UC has been raising tuition almost yearly; twice in some years. When I attended UC Berkeley in the 1980s, I paid only $600 per semester and could support myself entirely working part-time without incurring any debt. In November, UC regents approved an 8% increase to over $12,000 per year for California residents. This virtually guarantees that every student will be forced to incur enormous debt in exchange for an education and the chance to work (unemployment for college grads is currently around 5%, compared with 15% for high school dropouts). Even with a slightly better job market with those with a college degree, compensation and working conditions have been declining steadily for the past 40 years, making it harder to pay back the debt.


Class Warfare Against Students and Workers
 
The escalating police violence in Britain is intended to intimidate anyone opposed to the austerity measures being imposed for the benefit of corporations and banks. Similar levels of repression have been occurring against those protesting austerity in Spain, France, and other countries, as well. Spanish air traffic controllers were forced back to work by the military. Both cops and soldiers were utilized against striking truck drivers in Greece. 
Pundits and politicians in Britain have been arguing about whether they have been too lenient with demonstrators, with some calling for water cannons, and increasing use of truncheons, batons and  “kettling” (corralling and detaining large numbers of protesters in the streets, without food, water or access to toilets). Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said that the police had used restraint against protesters who attacked Prince Charles by not firing on them.

As governments resort to increasing levels state violence against students and workers, the fa├žade of democracy and social civility starts to crumble, revealing the true role of the police and military as defenders of class privilege. This is clearly fanning the flames of discontented youth, as they pour into the streets of Britain and elsewhere to demand their fair share of the pie.

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