Thursday, 11 November 2010

We do not condone violence.

London's student protests turned violent yesterday, as angry demonstrators destroyed the lobby of the Millbank Centre, Westminster home of the Tory Party. The unrest was the culmination of a 50,000-strong march against government plans to introduce a trebling of university tuition fees, an escalation that would leave them at £9000 per-year.

As law-abiding folk around the capital lodged their dismay at the scenes of broken glass and graffiti, London's libertarian mayor, Boris Johnson, was moved to remark that he was "appalled that a small minority have shamefully abused their right to protest." Johnson echoed the sentiments of media commentators with good jobs and mortgages nationwide, in condemning the violently angry behaviour of youths who have spent the last two years being told that "the good times are over", that graduate unemployment is at its highest rate for two decades, and that they'll never be able to afford a house of their own in which to consider the fine mess they're in. Moreover, one could be mistaken for believing that these viscious, little swines have completely overlooked the "Big Society" solidarity that can be found in these gloomy times. It's almost as if they didn't hear David Cameron's stirring words that "we're all in this together."... that's right folks, the son of a millionaire stockbroker who went to university for free, and with a state grant too, is right in the thick of the action with the everyday Joe currently at university for £3000 a year, and right there alongside the everyday Joanne who will be paying £9000 a year come 2016. It's all about pulling-together at times like these.

And pulling-together should never involve violence, as has been reiterated by Labour Party member and National Union of Students leader, Aaron Porter. Porter labelled scenes from inside the Millbank Centre as "despicable" and lamented yesterday that "a minority of idiots tried to undermine 50,000 who came to make a peaceful protest". Indeed, that violent minority of idiots ought be educated in the history of protest in Great Britain, with attentions drawn specifically to the great anti-war demonstrations of February 2003, when a million people took to the streets of London to peacefully proclaim their opposition to bombing Iraq back into the stone-age. Overwhelmed by this huge display of popular opinion, the government of the day, with supporting votes from MP Boris Johnson of Henley, and MP David Cameron of Witney, did at the last minute abstain from their war path and resolve instead to uphold the values of democracy and international law. Or something like that.

Elsewhere, in similarly misguided attempts at violent protest, Roshonora Choudhry of east London was this week sentenced to at least 15 years imprisonment for stabbing her MP, Stephen Timms. The attack was carried-out by Choudhry as "revenge" on behalf of the people of Iraq, who Timms voted to bomb back into the stone-age in 2003. When asked by the judge what she had hoped to achieve by her actions, she replied that it had been a 'punishment'. This attitude in particular seems to have caused rancour in the media response to Choudhry, with commentators of the distinct opinion that a 21 year-old girl stabbing her MP within five miles of three NHS hospitals is an act more cowardly than hundreds of apparently educated men and women ignoring the wishes of their electorate in resolving to drop 1700 bombs on the people of Iraq in one night alone. The wounds that ensue from an MP being stabbed by a carving knife are also said to be more grave than having to gather-up the scattered legs and hands of your offspring, after a cruise missile lands in your Baghdad apartment building.

As much a cause for conversation as the attack itself has been the context of Choudhry's prolific educational accolades. Expected to attain first-class honours at London's King's University, and already the winner of academic scholarships and prizes, Choudhry is said to be fluent in English, French, Arabic and Bengali, a raft of attributes that has led to lamentations that such a "glittering" future could be thrown-away so easily. As Timms himself remarked, "my real worry about it all is that a very bright young woman with everything to live for would reach the conclusion that she should throw it all away'. Indeed, with her university education, Choudhry would have made an excellent candidate for unpaid internships, and might even have gone-on to obtain a post as a PA or office administrator. It is all-but unthinkable that such heady achievements might have been sacrificed in pursuit of Choudhry's convictions, and for goals that didn't correspond to materialistic enrichment - these are not the values upon which our thriving society is built.

Enough of all this pacifism though... readers will be pleased to hear that Scotland Yard is planning to extend the use of guns within the Metropolitan Police. Areas of Hackney and Brixton are to be patrolled by officers with machine guns, as part of a directive to reduce the spectre of fear caused by an increase of guns on the streets. The patrols will be undertaken by the infamous firearms division of the Metropolitan Police, C019, who in 2005 were responsible for shooting-dead Jean Charles de Menezes on suspicion of wearing a bulky jacket whilst using the London Underground.

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