Police were violent, say rioting students

Sixth form students protest in Campbell Park
Sixth form students protest in Campbell Park
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WE have been set upon by baton-weilding riot officers, charged down by the mounted division and detained for hours without food or water in sub zero temperatures, writes MARY NORMAN.

The recent student demonstrations in London against university tuition fee rises have contained a level of police violence that should shock us all.

Yet, judging by the media coverage, the violence is all on the side of the students.

The front pages and television reports have been full of pictures depicting angry young men and women hurling missiles, spraying graffiti or damaging property.

An incident involving paint thrown at the royals’ car drew more column inches and screen time than a 20-year-old student beaten so severely around the head with a police baton that he requires emergency brain surgery.

When did society give consent to these thuggish police actions?

The ongoing media onslaught now directed at students exercising their democratic right to protest has a long history.

Over consecutive years the right wing tabloids have demonised and stereotyped demonstrators as troublemakers or the ‘great unwashed’ – hippies and anarchists.

Now they are applying these rules to the nation’s children. Because that is what a lot of these students still are - children.

Many demonstrations have included a significant number of 14 and 15-year-old keen to voice their concerns about the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance.

They have to come to stick up for themselves, their friends and their younger siblings who will suffer from the cut.

Are we as a society now saying it is reasonable to kettle children in the cold and deny them food or water for hours because they dared to voice an opinion about changes to their education?

Anyone who has taken part in these demonstrations has seen the police became gradually more violent and repressive towards them.

At Millbank, as the Conservative Headquarters became the focus of direct attention, the few riot police there were confused and out -numbered. Many students felt uncomfortable with what they saw but understood it as an expression of the frustration they had all been feeling for weeks.

Contrary to what the media reported, when the fire extinguisher was thrown off the roof thousands raised their hands in the air and chanted “stop throwing s***!”, fully aware that someone had overstepped the boundaries.

At the most recent protest students with their hands held high in surrender were beaten and pushed to the floor.

Society encourages children to engage with the world around them but when they do we batter them over the head, detain them without food and water and debate the use of water canons to silence them.

Apparently child abuse is acceptable if you are wearing the right uniform.

As British citizens we need to ask ourselves: what sort of society are we building for the future if it can contemplate censoring our young men and women in such a manner?

> Are you interested in studying for a foundation degree in journalism at the University Centre Milton Keynes?

For more information view www.ucmk.ac.uk or email jon.boyle@mkcollege.ac.uk.

> When student riots dominated the headlines this month, many people were shocked at footage of young protesters acting aggressively against police.

But the Citizen has given city student Mary Norman a chance to tell the other side of the story – one unseen in newspaper photographs and TV footage.

Mary’s article is the first contribution to the Citizen’s new monthly Student Voice column, which gives would-be journalists a chance to air their views.

The 35-year-old single mother-of-four is a mature student studying for a foundation degree in journalism at the University Centre Milton Keynes.