Hundreds of Oxford students took part in the Trades Union Congress (TUC) anti-austerity march in London last Saturday.
An estimated 150,000 people marched through Whitehall towards Hyde Park on Saturday in protest over the coalition’s austerity cuts.
The protest, which took place on 20th October, was given the title ‘A Future That Works’, under the slogan ‘Educate, Employ, Empower’.
Several Oxford students expressed their reasons for joining the protest.
St Antony’s History graduate student Parmbir Gill said: “The demonstration served both as a platform to collect and convey people’s opposition to austerity, and as a display of force to remind the government that our means of dissent always exceed purely vocal expressions. I attended in order to contribute to both these purposes.”
Jaideep Shah, a graduate student in Sanskrit from Wolfson, said: “I attended yesterday’s demonstration to protest against a government that has consistently revealed itself to be serving the business interests of a few at the expense of building a collective citizenry where the basic entitlements of equal education, healthcare, housing and employment are met.
“The government’s real intentions have been disguised by the rhetoric of a new ‘Big Society’, duping us into thinking that we can no longer afford these entitlements and that some of us (usually the poorest) have to prove their ‘worth’ (according to the government, the unemployed should work for free).
“By cultivating a value system to blame the individual, the government is trying to renege on its responsibility to protect and uphold the basic social contract between the state and the citizen.”
Last week, The Oxford Student reported that OUSU had voted against supporting the TUC protest, which would have included plans to hire coaches and publicising the demonstration.
Despite this, several individual college JCRs, including Keble and Wadham’s SU, voted to support the march.
Transport was not reported as a problem for any students travelling from Oxford, and several coaches were hired to bring Oxford, Brookes and Ruskin students to London.
The march aimed to highlight alternatives to the current cuts to public spending, including a crackdown on tax avoidance and a greater plan for growth.
Labour leader Ed Miliband addressed the rally at the end of the protest, but did not attend the march itself. He was jeered by large parts of the crowd for admitting that a Labour government cut public spending, but claimed that his party would not cut taxes for millionaires while raising them for everyone else.
During the march, some protestors broke from the main walk to protest outside various stores involved in the government’s Workfare program, a scheme by which unemployed people are offered the chance to do unpaid work experience for a fixed period of time at companies which have signed up.
These companies, including Marks & Spencer, Primark and McDonald’s, have been criticised for signing up to a scheme in which participants are unpaid and are liable to have their Job Seekers’ Allowance docked if they sign up to the scheme and then drop out.