Hundreds of students chase Aaron Porter through Manchester

Article published: Saturday, January 29th 2011

Aaron Porter’s position as President of the National Union of Students (NUS) looked increasingly untenable today after he was accosted and chased by hundreds of students from the University of Manchester campus to the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), where he took refuge  behind a police cordon.

Aaron Porter being led into the MMU Students' Union building by police.

The incident began when a small number of students spotted him at University Place, opposite the Manchester Museum, the arranged starting point of the student march. As they argued with about his record as head of the NUS, which has been controversial due to a number of statements critics say amount to denouncing his own membership, a larger number gathered around until there were around 300 people, with some reports suggesting as many as 500.

According to one member of the group, private security guards, who it is believed were hired by the NUS for the event, escorted Porter as the protesters “walked” him back toward MMU, chanting “students, workers, hear us shout, Aaron Porter sold us out”, and “Porter out”. Once at the university campus the police helped him in to the union building, where the NUS leadership based themselves for the day, with a small number of protesters attempting to gain entrance through a side door, before being thrown out by the same security company.

Witnesses reported that he was visibly shaken, with two separately describing him  as “sobbing”. Following this, Porter did not take part in the march, and did not speak as scheduled at the TUC/NUS/UCU rally taking place at Platt’s Fields. Shane Chowan, the union’s Vice-President, spoke instead, but was pelted with eggs at the end of his speech. References to the NUS throughout the rally were greeted with booing and heckling from the crowd.

Porter and the NUS leadership have come under increasing pressure since the very first day of the protests. He condemned the protesters involved in the Millbank occupation as “an utter disgrace”, and held a glowstick vigil on the December 9th while thousands of protesters were attacked by police in Parliament Square. His proposed strategy of using non-existent “Right to Recall” legislation was condemned by critics as infeasible, and he refused to support today’s protest in London. In a Guardian article yesterday, he dismissed opposition to his leadership as due to a “self-aggrandising minority”. Critics argue that his position, being indirectly elected, is unrepresentative,  and that his preference for lobbying instead of street protests ineffectual, resulting in increasing calls for him to step down.

Today there was local anger at the way the protest and rally was organised. Alex Fountain, the MMU Student Union’s Community Officer, complained that “our students’ union should not be used as a headquarters for the NUS”, and said that they seemed uninterested in giving local activists a voice, with none invited to speak during the rally.

“There was no engagement with Man Met Union at all, and no opportunity for student reps from Manchester to talk at all. The cuts are going to affect Manchester really badly,  so what’s better than getting someone involved with a local campaign?

Everyone’s talking about working together, but their actions aren’t following their words.”

Anger was not only directed at the NUS. Tony Lloyd, Labour MP for Manchester Central, was also heckled as he told the crowd that he voted against the fees increase and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, with some shouting “but you voted for the Iraq war”. Eggs were also thrown at him at the end of the speech.

Around a thousand protesters left the rally before it had finished, heading toward the City Centre instead. This group was gradually diminished by scuffles with police along Oxford Road and Upper Brook Street, with several reported to have been kettled in Deansgate until 5:30 this evening. 16 public order related arrests have been reported so far.

Tom Fox

More: Cuts, Education, News


  1. What a publicity disaster this demo was – sixteen arrest, 2 policemen injured, businesses forced to close. And if believe the allegations of anti-semitic abuse of Mr Porter are true then its much worse.

    I can’t se the students getting any sympathy from this march. Mummy and daddy will have to pay that £9,000 per year and the new Volvo will have to wait.

    Comment by simon on January 29, 2011 at 8:47 pm
  2. I think you have a bit too much spare time, Simon.

    Comment by ragnor on January 29, 2011 at 8:57 pm
  3. Simon’s ignorant as well as rude. The demonstrators’ INTENTION was to shut down businesses whose tax evasion, sanctioned by HMRC as unnecessary business back-scratching, deprive the country of tax revenue when the government claims it is bankrupt.
    Some great reporting here, in contrast with the MEN who had a journalist stationed at police headquarters to cover the march!

    Comment by Richard on January 29, 2011 at 9:02 pm
  4. Shift Magazine have written a very good response (by people who were actually there) to the accusations across the media of anti-Semitism directed against Porter.
    See here:

    Comment by andyl on January 30, 2011 at 6:47 pm
  5. […] Reports/pictures (Manchester): and See also: […]

    Pingback by Indymedia reports on the latest anti-cuts and fees demonstrations in London and Manchester – 29th Jan 2011 | Notts Save Our Services on January 30, 2011 at 11:47 pm
  6. Having attended Simon I would actually call this a victory of sorts. Young people fed up of being herded like cattle on marches by police and being forced to listen to boring speeches from the NUJ and TUC broke free of police lines, took over Oxford Road and Upper Brook Street before giving the police the run-around throughout town. You may find it hard to believe, but our intention was not to win over Daily Mail readers – so in that respect it is not really a publicity disaster.

    Comment by Withingtonian on February 1, 2011 at 11:16 am
  7. anyone got footage of an arrest outside the hilton, bout 4pm? i was knocked over by a horse then arrested and need the video to prove the arrest was unwarranted.

    Comment by ron porter on February 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm
  8. Please get in touch with if you were arrested on Saturday and have not been in touch with Arrestee support or if you have video footage/ photographs or witnessed any of the arrests.

    Comment by El on February 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm

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