People gather in Manzil Way
The march's lead banner
At the Plain
On the High
We wait at Carfax whilst a police horse looks on
Cops protect Barclays
Cops protect Vodafone
Where shall we occupy next?
Police protect Lloyds TSB
Trouble getting to the bank to withdraw
Some of the key points I heard were that:
* Public services need to be public so as to have the accountability and continuity that maintains the trust between it and the people it serves.
* Students have show the unions the a new way to protest and their initiative is a inspiration to them.
* Students need to support the unions in their strike action, and the unions need to support the students in their action.
* That by not providing a free education that allows ordinary people to be aspirational, you are taking a right to opportunities from them and are also depriving society of the right to professionals.
We gleaned from one police photographer/officer that although they had sympathies with the protestors and were also fearful for their jobs, as they are under oath to the crown, they are disallowed from protesting whilst in uniform and are unable to join a union. They could if they so wished, protest out of uniform, but as individuals and not representatives of the police. There was a relatively low police presence, which included two officers who we responsible for filming and photographing the entire demonstration and all the demonstrators for the day and four mounted police.
In a positive and carnivalesque mood we departed Manzil way and proceeded down Cowley Road towards the town centre. There was a minor incident at the Plain where a car driver didn't seem to clock all the police presence and the main demonstration and almost collided with a police horse. Now numbering somewhere around five or six hundred marchers, the demonstrators proceeded over Magdalen Bridge and down the high. There was a brief pause on the High when the front of the march stopped and sat down on the road in protest for a while, but then we were stopped at Carfax by four mounted police: the police had closed Carfax tower for the afternoon, much to chagrin of tourists. The front of the march then sat down at the junction of the High Street with St Aldates for a few minutes before we were all allowed on our way, then proceeding on down Queen Street to Bonn Square, where we gathered to hear more speeches from people including speakers from the two political parties (one being the Green, and the other being the last government), the CWU, Ruskin SU, local student groups, and Unison.
Whilst this was going on, I heard that there had been an occupation of Barclays Bank on Corn Market by a group of protesters, so rushed over there. Apprarently some 40-50 demonstrators had occupied Barclays for about quarter of an hour before the police arrived. Upon their arrival the demonstrators vacated the bank peacefully. When I arrived there was a jovial mood of bravado with around 150 student demonstrators, mainly students gathered outside Barclays, which now had the shutters down and a number of police officers "protecting" it. I spoke to one independent media journalist who had been inside the bank covering the occupation who had just had their details taken under section 50 of the Police Reform Act ( http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/30/section/50).
The crowd then suddenly surged to the Vodafone shop across the street, but they quickly got their doors protected by the dutiful police officers. Looking for something else to do, the crowd moved back to Carfax and made a vague effort to pop into Lloyds TSB bank on the corner. The police anticipated this and quickly shut the doors and helped to protect partially state-owned property from the general public.
After that the crowd moved back down Corn Market and decided to call it a day. The only other incident was a student who had their details taken under sector 50 for swearing in public, which had caused some offence to police sensibilities.
All in all a peaceful and enjoyable march. The biggest of its kind so far in Oxford, with a great number of representatives from student, union and independent groups all saying the same: that the cuts are unnecessary, that the rich should be taxed, that we will stand united, we shall fight, and we shall bring down this Con-Dem government!