My Admiration for One Girl – 24 November 2010


millbank_aftermath As almost everyone knows, this was what was left of the Conservative Party’s swanky office’s reception on 11 November, after peaceful protests turned to rowdy riots. It led to 66 arrests, and at least 14 people (including police officers) being injured. The violence also raised serious questions as to New Scotland Yard’s planning, due to a lack of riot police and crowd-control equipment. It upset me, partly because many of the poor people working at Tory HQ (at the Millbank Centre in London) have no control over their party’s rulings; but also because most of the protesters claimed they were angry with the Lib-Dems for ‘broken manifesto promises’.

But, not convinced they’d done enough, students across the country took to the streets again today, though this time in a (generally) far more controlled manner. This morning, I saw a figure knocking around somewhere, that said that 1 in 10 students were expected to take part. There was, however, some violence; with fires started, eggs and fireworks thrown, and arrests made in connection with other public order offences across England.

SMASHED_Demonstrators attack a police van Perhaps the most defining images though are once again in London, where a deserted police van became the ‘centre of the action’. It was battered beyond belief, with a cone being smashed at its windscreen, the wing-mirrors pulled off, and various graffiti reading ‘F**k the police’ being sprayed across the paintwork of the van.

PROTECTIVE_Zoe Williams protects a police riot van covered in graffiti However, a bunch of schoolgirls today won my admiration. They stood forward and – fed up with a violent image of students being portrayed – tried to keep off the vandals from the police van. By forming a daisy-chain around the defenceless Transit they kept off the violent protestors – albeit for a few minutes. At the forefront of the brave idea was Year 11 student Zoe Williams who said that she realised that, by damaging government property, students aren’t putting themselves in the government’s ‘good books’.

“I was just trying to get across to them that the cause that we’re here for today isn’t about ‘I hate the police, I want to burn the police and I want to destroy everything they represent’”

– Zoe Williams, schoolgirl, 24 November 2010

I finish with some of today’s good news: following the Tory HQ riots from a fortnight ago, a man who threw a fire extinguisher from the roof of Millbank (one Edward Woollard) has pleaded guilty to a charge of violent disorder, meaning that theoretically he could be behind bars for five years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m against the expected £9k-a-year fees for a university education, but I am completely against violent protests. You will probably find that a fair proportion of the police who are injured (and remember, they are only doing their job) are against the cuts too – they have daughters, sons, nieces, and nephews who all want to go to uni. Look, if you can’t see it from a human side, in Bristol this afternoon a police horse was very nearly injured after a firework was thrown. You can see the terror in the dear animal’s eyes in the video half way down this page. I’m certain that there is no need for that.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.