#Demo2012: Protest Ends Nastily As NUS President Liam Burns Forced Off Stage

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A peaceful student protest, which saw thousands march through London streets, took a nasty turn after angry students forced the National Union of Students' president offstage.

Liam Burns, head of the NUS, was delivering a closing speech to the crowds who had assembled in the pouring rain on Wednesday in Kennington Park, south London.


James...
The march was strong, tons of people. The rally was however a washout interrupted by distaste for NUS via chants and boos.

Protesters had already been chanting "NUS blame on you, where the f**k you brought us to?", in reference to the Zone 2 area where the rally was held, but increased the volume when Burns took to the stage. Around 15 demonstrators forced their way on to the platform, with one pushing Burns away from the microphone, the Times Higher Education reported.

demo2012 liam burns

A group of students took to the stage to interrupt Liam Burns' speech, forcing the NUS president into the crowd

Reports on Twitter also claimed the president had been egged, while the Guardian reported he had been "pelted with eggs and a satsuma".

Burns told the crowd the real fight is "against the coalition, not the student movement" and would ignore those chanting. Eventually however, he was forced off the stage and attempted to continue his speech from the ground with a megaphone.


Ian Dunt
Relations between the NUS and members hit rock bottom as they invade stage during president speech

The NUS had faced criticism from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), who said the route from Embankment to Kennington was a failure.

Michael Chessum, organiser of the NCAFC, released a statement revealing the group's plans and students' dissatisfaction at the official route.

"Many thousands of students and activists across the country are dissatisfied with the route of the NUS demonstration, which fails to meaningfully pass the centres of power which are attacking students and ordinary people," he said. "If the only right to protest that students are being offered is in irrelevant locations, that is no right to protest at all."

Students marched from Temple Place along the Embankment and gathered at the rally in Kennington, which was opened by comedian Josie Long. Although spirits were high during the march, the students quickly dissipated with some heading home or taking shelter from the rain in cafes.

The NCAFC, meanwhile, staged its own march to Parliament, which was met by police and culminated in a scuffle.

Burns had previously condemned any attempts to deviate from the planned route and perpetrate violence during an interview earlier this month.

"All of our students' unions are quite clear about this being a peaceful demonstration. I think we've set the tone right," he said. "For me the reason that violence will never form a part of this campaign is that it doesn’t make sense tactically."

He also added: "One of the things I can’t do is stop any arsehole from coming along on the day."

There were several comments which dubbed the demonstration disappointing:


GuyAitchison
I think we have to be honest and say that was a wash-out in more ways than one.

Harry D. R. Warne
in 1 word: shambles. I will not be looking to the for guidance in the future.

But the negative comments seemed to have been outnumbered by the many students tweeting the success of the march, which the NUS estimated numbered 10,000.


Rachel Megan Barker
Fantastic to see so many students from & so many at braving the rain to stand up for our education.

Student Tyler added: "Please don't let the actions of a few stop you [the NUS] from being proud of all you achieved today - your work made me proud to be a student."

On the NUS website, Burns posted a statement saying: "It was an amazing day. Thank you to everyone that came out to march on the streets and all others that supported online. But the campaign is not over yet."

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