From a PR point of view your recent demonstrations in London have been a disaster. Yesterday’s demonstration was hijacked by a minority of mindless criminal thugs who infiltrated the peaceful protest to carry out their darker criminal activity which resulted in an outrage when the Heir to the Throne’s car was attacked, Police officers were hospitalised, the Cenotaph and other statues including that of Winston Churchill were defaced and most importantly from the student union’s position the demonstration and it’s raison d’etre being totally overshadowed by the activity of the mindless minority.

Your message has been lost. The talk is not of rising university tuition fees but of the damage and destruction that has been caused. If you want your message to be heard then you need to grips with these hijackers and take back your protest. Until you do so your message will not be heard. You must accept that it is these people who have hijacked your cause that are your enemy, not the police and to get rid of the hijackers you must support and work with the police. You may not like the sound of this but it is the only way you will salvage anything from this very sad and sorry state of affairs.

So here is my advice on what you need to do should you be demonstrating peacefully and events turn ugly around you. For example individuals near to you start to behave in a criminal way. If this happens then can I suggest that you;

Draw the attention of the nearest Police Officer so they can deal with the matter. Point at the offender to identify them to the police.

Move away from the incident as best as you can. I appreciate you may be in a tight crowd but by moving away you allow the Police easier access to deal with the matter more swiftly, it will also allow the Police a better view of what is occurring and most importantly it clearly demonstrates to the authorities present that you are not involved, do not condone the action and are there to demonstrate peacefully.

Encourage those with you to also move away from the incident for the same reasons.

Let the Police, Ambulance and any other staff deal with the matter – it is what they are there for and it is their responsibility not yours.

Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into any remonstration with the offenders. You may well end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time as a result.

Finally if you really want to raise the sympathy of your cause in the public eye and show yourself to be an honest, peaceful, law abiding demonstrator then can I suggest that you take photographs or record footage which clearly shows criminal activity being carried out. Thereafter offer your material to the Police for evaluation and possible use as evidence. Be prepared to stand up and be counted and give evidence if required against the wrongdoers who have hijacked your peaceful demonstration.

Advise your fellow students to do the same and when the mindless thugs who have thus far hijacked your protest realise that they are a minority who will have evidence against them gathered by the majority of those demonstrators, that is the peaceful protesters who want their voice back, then the hijackers will disappear from whence they came and the protest will again belong to you. The Police, the authorities, the politicians and the wider public will see you in a better light as a result of your actions and most importantly your message will be heard.

I would also offer the following advice to assist those who wish to protest peacefully at future demonstrations:

Familiarise yourself with who you will be walking the demonstration route with – get to know your little group.

Be aware of a change to the group structure – suddenly some unknown individuals have joined you – especially if they have concealed their faces.

Be on the lookout for any suspicious activity around you – especially for anyone carrying concealed items.

Familiarise yourself with the location of the nearest Police Officer(s) to you as you walk along – say hello to them I assure you they won’t bite!

Enjoy your right to voice your opinion – but do so in a responsible manner.

Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself – don’t mask your face you are after all there to express your opinion peacefully.

Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs prior to the start as your spacial awareness and ability to communicate etc. may deteriorate as time passes. You need to keep your wits about you.

Stick to the agreed route and obey your student Marshalls messages as the event progresses.

Obey instructions given to you by the Police. In the majority of cases it will be to ensure your own safety.

We are all fortunate to live in a country where it is our right to demonstrate. I urge and encourage you to enjoy that right but it must be peaceful. As good citizens it is your public duty to help the authorities combat crime and make no mistake, these people hijacking your peaceful protests are committing a crime. If they broke into your parents’ house you’d co-operate with the Police. If they mugged your Granny you’d do everything you could to bring them to justice. Well these mindless thugs are stealing your peaceful protest and as a result your voice and message isn’t being heard. Whilst it is your right to protest and demonstrate it is also your right to protect that protest and that demonstration. So do it! Take control back from these mindless thugs! You can do it!