A boy of 12 taking part in this week’s mass protest over university tuition fees said today: “We will never give in.”
Tommy Jackman, who will be one of the youngest to demonstrate against the hike in fees, said he was not scared despite the violence at previous protests. He vowed to be on the “front line” of the march.
University students are threatening to cripple central London, picket office blocks and rally schoolchildren over the next two days.
The National Union of Students is encouraging people to take part in a series of walkouts and protests tomorrow, while a march is set to bring the centre of the capital to a halt on Thursday.
Students admitted the protests, which are not co-ordinated by one central body, will be chaotic.
A police spokesman said about 1,000 officers would be on standby to deal with any violence.
Tommy, a pupil at the London Nautical School in Stamford Street near Waterloo, took part in the last student protest, and climbed on Nelson’s column.
Schools faced criticism after the Standard revealed hundreds of children walked out of lessons to take part in the last two student protests, on November 24 and December 1. Police last week issued a warning to parents not to let their children take part.
Tommy said: “This time there will be more people — I know people who will protest like their life depends on it.
“I will be on the front line. I’m not scared. We’re told in school nothing is more important than education — we’re not going to stop until we get what we need. We’ll never give in.”
His mother Emma, 30, from Swiss Cottage, said: “He’s quite outspoken, my boy, and very strong-willed. I’m a bit worried about the violence [but] I don’t want to stop him.
“I’m not going to let him go on his own — he’ll be with a neighbour who is 16. Tommy knows what is happening, and how it is going to affect his future so it’s very good he is getting his point across.”
His headteacher, Hyder Dastagir, said Tommy did not take part in last week’s march with permission: “It is not safe for a child of 12. I would not sanction any of my pupils going because they should be in school learning.
“If he was there, he must have been truanting.”
London’s universities and schools are planning their own protests tomorrow. UCL students are set to march to nearby schools to encourage them to join Thursday’s action, while King’s College students will take to the Tube with a petition.
One Facebook site promoting the Shut Down London march on Thursday urged people to “Shut down institutions, blockade and picket schools, colleges and universities.”
Michael Chessum, of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “It is difficult because everybody is planning different things for tomorrow.Essentially nobody knows what is going to happen. It will be a bit chaotic.
“There is a lot of localised stuff and lots of demos around schools and colleges. There will be impromptu demos. Schoolchildren could end up sitting down in the middle of the road, but they wouldn’t tell anybody in advance. It will be like a flock of sparrows.”
Meanwhile, a group of students from Goldsmiths today occupied the university library. Buildings at University College London, the School of Oriental and African Studies and King’s College are all still occupied by protesters.
The RMT transport union, which represents Tube workers, has written to all its members urging them to support the student protests on Wednesday and Thursday.
The timetable of disruption
The NUS National Day of Action. Universities and schools will hold a demos and walkouts. King’s College students will take over the Tube, and UCL students will march to central London schools. The NUS Women’s Campaign will protest at MP Lynne Featherstone‘s Wood Green offices. Students from outside London will join occupations at SOAS, UCL, King’s College and Goldsmiths. At 1.30pm, students from the Royal College of Art will join political activist Hetty Brown, 105, to deliver a letter to Nick Clegg.
At midday thousands will march from the University of London Union to Parliament Square. At 1pm a mass lobby will take place, after students made appointments to see their MPs. A candlelit vigil will be held from 3pm.