They are conscious of what they look like – angelic spirits of 1968. Their school ties are knotted around their heads as if dressing up as the Woodstock generation for a classroom history play, but this act of street theatre is for real. Some who were at the student protests this week accuse police of deliberately leaving a solitary van in the middle of the “kettled” crowd to invite trouble and provide incriminating media images of an out-of-control mob attacking it. Whatever, the schoolgirls who brought attacks on the police vehicle to an end by standing around it with linked hands in flower-power poses understood the power of images better than their elders.
For this picture tells a lot, very quickly. It tells us the menace of violence is real as anger grows among groups directly afflicted by the coalition’s cuts. Yet it also reveals that most protesters are peaceful, idealistic, with a sense of history and of the gravity of their actions. Most of all it tells us how amazingly young many of them are.
But it will be if we fail these kids.