IT was a cold spring day in 1975 when I marched from my local university to protest against government cuts. I was a red-haired sixth form student with revolution in my heart and thoughts of bringing down the government. The shouts of "Stop the Cuts – Smash the Freeze – Fight for the right to Work" echoed through the streets as thousands of us protested.
The police were out in force – there was at least 10 of them, smartly dressed, white-gloved, walking at our side. We marched, we shouted and then we went home, job done, revolution over, back to school. There was no bloodshed, no violence, but the point was still made. I had exercised my democratic right to protest and take to the streets along with thousands of others.
It was a credible manifestation of student anger at the government and solidarity with "the workers". Then came Thatcher, the miners' strike and the poll tax. The political landscape changed and violent protests became the norm. It is as if it has become a right within our broken society to beat police horses, passers-by and members of the Royal Family. No one is off limits to this mindless scum who use the cause of tuition fees to attack society.
What has happened this week is testament to the fact that there are supposedly educated people who are hell-bent on violence and destruction in some parts of academia. The masked cowards who urinated on and defaced the statue of Winston Churchill, and swung off the flags at the Cenotaph, should be rounded up imprisoned, or sent to some country that they will be happy to live in. I wonder how they would cope living in China, Russia or Saudi Arabia?
Perhaps then, they would not run so foot-loose with democracy or desecrate the memory of the truly brave people who died so they could be free from tyranny and protest.
No one in this country has the right to use violence to support a political cause. They are the stupid bullyboys that should have had summary justice given to them on the street with the sharp edge of a baton or a face full of CS gas. They are protected by the liberal-Left who believe it is acceptable to paint attack a future monarch or beat up a police officer.
Many are egged on by the intellectual elite hiding behind a veil of respectability and laughing over their cappuccinos wrapped in Boden sweaters. No one seems to care at the damage this has done. It is vital in times of austerity that civil unrest has to be kept in check. For the safety of the quiet and peaceful majority, those anarchists and thugs who attacked the heart of our nation and our monarchy should be dealt with mercilessly.
It was heartbreaking to see the brave women and men of the police being beaten back by the howling mob. In a situation such as this, police action should be swift, aggressive and severe. Those using violence against people and buildings should be dissuaded as quickly as possible in a language that they understand – force.
The cries of the libertines should be ignored; anyone who dares to attack the state in this way leaves their civil rights at the door. If protesters hit a police officer, then they should be prepared to be hit back with even greater force. It was plain to see the timidity of the police officers, obviously fearful that they were being filmed and that anything they did could come back to haunt them in some trumped up complaint by a member of the great unwashed who hurt his finger. If you protest by the sword…
The policing of the riots in London was woefully inadequate. Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson should be replaced immediately with someone who isn't frightened of giving out the correct level of response. There should have been hundreds of arrests and prosecutions. Instead, the event has turned out to be another anarchist jolly – go to London, urinate on Churchill, abuse the future monarch and then back to the safety of the halls of residence of some third-rate polytechnic. I can see them laughing now as they watch the footage of their antics on You Tube and brag to their mates how they smashed a police horse over the head as their pathetic personal act of revolution.
Our society and our communities have to be protected from this kind of violent protest. The NUS. should hold themselves responsible. They cannot use the excuse that "it wasn't us". It was evident that "normal" students were also involved in the rampage, not everyone causing trouble was a mindless anarchist. These people have to be shown that their actions are not above the law. They have to know that if you are in the first five rows of protesters beating police with sticks that you will be arrested and prosecuted.
The police knew that this event would be hijacked from the start and it should not have been allowed to take place. The student riots show that the Public Order Act is unworkable in these circumstances. The police should have the power to order a complete dispersal of protesters bent on violence. It is time to reinstate the Riot Act of 1715. This would give the power that the police need in these circumstances and would help the protesters understand the gravity of their actions. It would also stop the police from being accused of being too aggressive. In circumstances like these, they should have used more force.
We are living in a time when students have never had it so good. Their life opportunities are better now than at any time in history. There is nothing immoral about asking someone to pay towards a university education. Gone are the days when the top 12 per cent of the population had the opportunity to go on beyond 18 to study. Now the sheer weight of numbers wanting to obtain a degree is greater than ever.
It is just impossible to pay for this out of taxation. If you want a posh car, you have to pay for it; the same is now true for higher education. I never went to university because even in the 1970s I knew I couldn't afford it. That decision has not held me back in life. It is about time that the whining kids grew up and took some responsibility for their actions. It is also time for David Cameron to start protecting the law-abiding people of this country and get tough on street crime.
In the words of my wise plumber who has just fixed my leak: "If they want to fight – let them go to Afghanistan…"