Similarities to Wisconsin’s recent political
atmosphere loomed at a demonstration held on Saturday, October 20th, 2012 in
London. Students along with union members and union sympathizers gathered
outside the University of London Union (ULU) in Bloomsbury to protest the
recent cuts in welfare and education as part of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)
demonstration for “A Future that Works.”
Pamphlets and signs were generously passed out to
the crowd that began gathering just before 11:00a.m. Speakers shouted through
megaphones about the cuts made in the last two years to the country’s budget
and individuals with clipboards walked through the crowd collecting signatures
on a petition.
Just one and half years ago, a similar situation
unfolded in Madison, Wisconsin, where tens of thousands turned out to protest
Governor Scott Walker’s political actions to balance the state budget that
stripped many unions of their bargaining rights. Now, thousands of miles across
the Atlantic Ocean, thousands had turned out to protest the cuts Britain was
facing under David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s Conservative/Liberal Democrat
Moses, a student at the University of East London,
was one of the individuals collecting signatures. He said that the purpose of
the petition was to “bring local disputes together” through a general strike in
an effort “to kick David Cameron out of office.
“We took a lot of inspiration from [events in
Wisconsin],” he said in reference to efforts to fight the recent budget cuts,
including Saturday’s demonstration.
As the demonstration moved from ULU towards the
Thames River and Parliament to join with the larger movement of the TUC the
crowd became more vociferous with drum cadences, whistles, and chants. “Hey,
ho, Cameron’s got to go” boomed from a megaphone while another group chanted of
rights to a free education.
Tyler, a student and the education officer at his
university, spoke of the hardships many students were facing with the cuts to
student services and the increase in tuition from £3000 ($4800) to £9000
($14400) per year.
“Students need jobs to pay for school, but there
are no jobs,” he said.
It is a chilling reminder that the economy still
lags while the cost of education soars. Students are hard pressed to find jobs,
and with cuts to housing benefits, some are finding the need to move back home.
Michael Holland, a teacher at Benedict Primary
School in Mitcham, spoke on the difficulties students in primary and secondary
schools face along with the problems teachers are now dealing with.
“[It’s] turning children into units of labor,” he
said, referencing the belief that rigorous government standards lead to a
“minimal amount of education” and that students are simply being “ground
through” the system with fewer resources due to budget cuts.
Increased scrutiny and rigorous government testing,
similar to that in the states where students are tested on knowledge gained and
teachers are assessed accordingly, has caused frustration in the classroom for
both teachers and students.
It is difficult not to hear
echoes of Wisconsin’s recent political unrest in the struggles between
England’s working class and Parliament’s move towards sorting out the nation’s
debt. The struggle between fairness to the working class and maintaining a
functioning government is a complicated issue that is shared internationally.