National Union of Students President Aaron Porter was unable to speak at the rally of today's NUS/UCU demonstration in Manchester, after hundreds of angry students chased him off the streets.
As protesters gathered at the starting point on Oxford Road, about thirty activists from Hull Students Against Fees and Cuts and Leeds University Against Cuts accosted Porter and demanded that he justify his record. Instead of engaging with us, Porter turned and hurried off - only to find himself followed by growing numbers of demonstrators from across the North. Within a couple of minutes he was literally being chased through the streets of Manchester by almost half those who had gathered at that point - perhaps about five hundred people - with chants including "Students, workers, hear us shout, Aaron Porter sold us out" and "Porter - out". Eventually he took refuge in Manchester Metropolitan Union, protected by a heavy cordon of riot police.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Porter did not turn up to speak at closing rally. Instead, NUS was represented by his deputy, Vice-President Further Education Shane Chowan - who was unable to finish his speech after he was drowned out by hostile chanting and pelted with eggs.
The rally was deathly dull, with trade union bureaucrat after trade union bureaucrat spouting thin, liberal anti-Toryism and telling us what we already knew (with the partial exception of Matt Wrack from the FBU, who gave a pretty militant performance). The atmosphere among the several thousand protesters - overwhelmingly students - was very different. Most of the speakers were heckled repeatedly, and chants about student-worker unity, the need for strike action and the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt were very popular. After the end of the rally, about a thousand students marched independently into town, led by the student left (NCAFC, SWP, Workers' Liberty, Revolution, anarchists). We were met by a huge and violent police presence, and at the time of writing many of us are still kettled on Deansgate in central Manchester - though having comrades sing the Internationale with us from across the road helped keep up our spirits.
After the chasing off of Aaron Porter, one other bit of good news. Pat Murphy, an AWL comrade who sits on the National Union of Teachers executive, told us today that the committee had, on his initiative, voted to delete a proposal to invite Porter to speak at NUT conference in April. Hated and hunted by his own members, Porter is starting to be shunned by many trade unionists too.