Students take tuition fees protest to Birmingham City Council chamber
Dec 1 2010 By Kat Keogh
Birmingham students were on the march again when a group of 50 demonstrators occupied part of Birmingham City Council House in protest at plans to treble the cost of tuition fees.
Placard-waving protesters, consisting of students and members of the Socialist Workers Party, staged a sit-in lasting for four hours at the council chamber.
The peaceful protest came after a planned lunchtime demonstration by the Bullring shopping centre, in a show of anger at plans that could see tuition fees rocket from £3,290 to as much as £9,000.
Around 50 protesters entered the council building just after 1pm on Tuesday. Police officers and negotiators remained with them until they left at 5pm.
A statement read by one of the group on the steps of the Council House said: “We call on all elected politicians in Birmingham to support student and union demands to scrap increases in tuition fees and unfair cuts to the public sector.
“We note that at a time when the Government says it seeks to reduce the national debt, it is proposing to charge students a massive personal debt for the right of an education that these same politicians got for free.”
Protesters also presented the council with a list of demands, which included a meeting with the “councillor in charge of the education budget” and for Lib Dem councillors to “openly campaign” against tuition fee increases.
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said Weoley Castle Conservative councillor Peter Douglas Osborn, and Springfield Lib Dem councillor Tanveer Choudhry met with the protesters for more than half an hour to discuss their concerns.
“It has been a peaceful protest which we have monitored and it has passed off without any major incident,” the spokesman added.
A further 50 protesters also staged a demonstration on the steps of the Council House during the sit-in, where they held aloft banners bearing slogans including “Think of the children” and “This man has Eton our future” next to a picture of Prime Minister David Cameron.
Student Poppy Watkiss, who was among those who occupied the empty chamber, said: “We need to do everything we can to bring this issue to the attention of central government.
“We’re not going to take this lying down, not just education but the public sector cuts across the board.
“We walked in. There was no violence or force.”
Around 100 students then staged a final march down a busy New Street following the end of the sit-in.
A spokesman for West Midlands Police said the protest “couldn’t have been more different” from the violent clashes which marred a tuition fees protest in London three weeks ago.
“It has been a wholly peaceful protest: there has been no violence, criminal damage or arrests,” the spokesman said.