Exeposé News Issue 631, Page 4-5 (24 November 2014) and Exeposé News online (24 November 2014) – Collaboration with News Co-editor Emily Leahy
Exeposé spoke to Niall Walker of Exeter Socialist Students, who said “the anger was palpable” at the demo.
He added that: “the anger was more towards the NUS,” and emphasised the “complete disillusionment” with the NUS that seemed to be prevalent among demonstrators.
The NUS had previously supported the event, but formally withdrew their backing on 5 November, just two weeks ahead of the demonstration. Walker commented: “regardless of whether you think the NUS should have supported the demonstration, the way they handled it was absolutely scandalous.”
“If the NUS wants to be an organisation representative of students, and then goes against students for such ridiculous concerns, students have the right to feel disillusioned,” he added.
Speaking of the demonstration in general, Walker noted that there was a “higher turnout than any of us expected, given that the NUS weren’t involved.”
He branded the attendance “positive” for the student movement, which he said “hasn’t really had anything to grab hold of since 2010.”
Despite popular criticism that the demonstration lacked direction, Walker stressed: “the goals of the protest were good” and “the numbers were encouraging.”
However, he said: “The moment when the march lost its meaning for me was when it left Parliament Square,” referring to a “weird stand-off” that occurred when protestors turned on a local Starbucks, throwing eggs and shouting that the company should pay taxes.
“It was ridiculous,” said Walker, adding: “There were workers in there, and they were petrified.”
Asked about the Exeter turnout, Walker noted that it was “good given that the Guild weren’t funding travel.” Praising the “dedication” shown by students at Exeter, he added: “It’s encouraging that a lot of people were getting involved.”
And can Exeter students expect to see any local action? “I’m almost certain there will be events happening here,” said Walker. Referring to a national day of action planned for 3 December, he predicted: “There will be action, not only here but across university campuses around then.”
With talks still in progress as to what’s next, Walker said: “we will be providing spaces where people can feel comfortable to come and find out more, and question the situation they’re finding themselves in.”
He stressed: “This is directly affecting all of us,” saying the campaign’s main aims are now to “increase awareness” and “push students to read up about it, and find out more.”