COV STUDENT TALKS ABOUT DECEMBER 9TH LONDON PROTEST FROM THE INSIDE

With many thanks to thenewcurrent where you can also see Paul’s excellent photographs of the process
Student Protest 2010: Interview Paul Hogan, Coventry Student, Part 1

TNC are really proud to have Paul Hogan, a 3rd year Photography student at Coventry University, on our site. Having read his interview on the BBC just after the protest on the 9th December we got in touch and he has taken part in one of the first live interviews we have done on the protest.

How have you enjoyed your course, has it been everything you had wanted it to be?

I’m very fortunate to be working with some pretty special students and lecturer’s who are not only supportive but also cutting edge in terms of photography delivery. I was originally an art student and i transferred, the guys at Coventry helped me to adjust and really get to grips with this type of communicating yourself and im finally gaining the confidence to do what I want to do.

What have you got planned for when you finish?

It takes a long time to develop yourself as a photographer. I want to go into reporting photography, but the ‘after event’ recording. I believe the future of media is in people like us doing this, building a community of followers then making products commercially viable for your readership. But im aware that this will take time, so i will also be training as a teacher in the hope that this government doesn’t take a way all the jobs!

How did you get involved with the protest, were you not put off by some of the actions that had taken place before?

This isn’t my first protest, I came down to photograph the G20 protest a couple of years ago where Ian Tomlinson Died. The violence there was equally as bad as it was yesterday on both sides and that really braced me for it. I chose to come down firstly to support the student movement, but also to develop my coursework by photographing and interviewing students on site as well as recording as much information as possible to create a piece of work for http://www.phonar.org. I went alone, its a student movement so I didn’t feel afraid or worried I wouldn’t speak to anyone. I knew that I would find friendly people and that was the case.

What are your views on the early stages of the protest and the final outcome of the violence? Could this have been handled differently on both sides?

I was on Radio 5 live when the protest decided to take a different route and was one of the people who ran up side streets. The reason for it was that we could see in front of us police moving to kettle students in before we’d even reached Trafalgar square. Everyone was obviously nervous, both police and students and I think it spiralled from there.

I think it’s also really important to separate the violence that happened within Parliament Square, to that of the christmas tree incident or the attack on the royals. We were without question infiltrated by a rouge element of both younger kids and adults who were there for the sole purpose of causing trouble. I understand the police approach and I had some really in-depth conversations with some officers during the day on their opinions on the vote. Just like the students, there was a rouge element of police that wore their badge of office as a right to bully. I am disgusted at the prolonged kettling of innocent people on Westminster Bridge and the insistence of police in capturing photographs of people, but i expected things to go exactly as it did, just maybe not for so long.
I fully believe that the element that attacked the Prince’s car, burnt the christmas tree and wrecked a TopShop had little or no affiliation with any university or school.

The BBC did pretty intensive coverage of the whole protest, which i watched in my union, do you think that it becomes hard to hear reason when your confronted with the minority of people who seem to want to cause trouble? Does this weaken the message that the peaceful protesters have been saying?

No i don’t believe it does anymore as the nation as a whole is starting to look deeper. I will not lie, Millbank (Tory HQ) did help the movement. It put students on the front page and kept them there. But it caught the imagination of the nation and now many support us. The violence is unavoidable because of a rouge element, just as all marches like this have been since the 1960′s. The vote result proves the message was received by those who needed to listen. No one believed we could stop the vote but we did believe we could start the change, that’s what was achieved.

Once the Prince of Wales and his wife got ‘attacked’ do you think that any upper hand that the protesters had was lost, if you think of it in terms of that images being on the front page of 90% of the UK national papers?

Those more cynical in the world would suggest it was done on purpose to do just that. There was so much police there, why were a few hundred protestors able to break free? The story of the day was never going to be the protestors, it was always going to be the vote. So yes it may have knocked the protest down a column, but if you were aiming to effect the front page story and not be it, I think you can’t complain.

You said on the BBC that you listened to speeches and where part of a pretty peaceful student protest, do you think that image and side of the demonstration has been lost due to the violence?

From the coverage I saw of the BBC, I witnessed two very different beasts. The coverage during the day was very pro fact and balanced. It incorporated all sides and did the job pretty well. However the flagship news shows at 6 o’clock and 10 were very bias to the more sensationalized images. I would suggest that this is down to public involvement. the shows during the day had phone in’s that were live, they took in the facts. the flagship news channels had to cherry pick the best images and the ones that would capture the imagination and sadly when they did this it lost sight of what it was representing.

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