There was a considerable student showing at the 80,000 strong TUC demonstration against austerity outside Tory party conference in Manchester on Sunday 4 October.
The student bloc, including groups from Bristol and several Scottish universities, injected some much needed energy into the march and formed one of the liveliest sections of the protest.
Local campus group, Free Education Manchester, ran a section in conjunction with the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which included a high number of first-time demonstrators.
Free Education Manchester’s visible contribution was an important victory for grass-roots organising. In the run-up to the demo, the Student Assembly against Austerity was criticised for failing to include or consult local activists. Following this, the NUS National Excutive voted, by e-mail, against a motion calling on the SAA to take their lead from the Free Education Manchester. There has been no explanation about the reasoning behind this decision.
Despite this, on the day, Free Education Manchester took the lead, its banner forming the front of the bloc, encouraging students to feed into the march from the SAA’s inexplicably distant meet-up point.
On its arrival the bloc galvanised the nearby education unions into a series of chants, including calls for open borders. These chants, the banners and placards, revealed how the movement stands for much more than the abolition of tuition fees.
Taking place exactly one month before the NCAFC’s national demonstration, the bloc gave activists a sense that student politics is experiencing resurgence.