Student tuition fees protest passes off peacefully
Few incidents reported as police appear to outnumber students and activists marching in protest against fee increases
Thousands of students marched through central London on Wednesday to protest against fee increases and were met by large numbers of police but as darkness fell the demonstration appeared to be passing off peacefully.
As the protestors made their way through the City there were sporadic incidents involving bottles being thrown.
An attempt was made to pitch tents in Trafalgar square but they were moved on quickly. Twenty arrests had been made by the early evening.
An estimated quarter of the 10,000 expected demonstrators initially turned up after Scotland Yard announced 4,000 officers had been made available.
Protesters carried placards which read “Scrap Tuition Fees” and “Free Education”.
There were chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” and “David Cameron – fuck off back to Eton”, while demonstrators slowly made their way through the streets.
They also shouted: “You can shove your rubber bullets up your arse,” in reference to warnings earlier this week that baton rounds had been made available following disturbances in the capital at demonstrations a year ago.
News and police helicopters hovered overhead and workers came out of their offices to look at the march, which was led by mounted police.
Students from Liverpool university told the Guardian they were disappointed at the numbers who turned up for the march, blaming lack of explicit backing from NUS and “intimidation tactics” from police.
Anthony, 19, studying civil engineering, said: “People who were involved in the protests last year were sent letters, police are threatening to use plastic bullets – I think it’s put a lot of people off. But it’s not going to stop us, we are going to keep coming back.”
Demonstrators appeared to be being held for 10-15 minute periods before being allowed to continue on the route of the march.
At New Fetter Lane there was some agitation among the crowd. A number of bottles and placard sticks were thrown. Protesters tried to re-manoeuvre in the narrow lane causing protesters and media at the front to scatter. An arrest was made at that point.
Later around 800 people were contained at the front of the march at the Moorgate/London Wall junction.
Protesters were being allowed to leave via a filtered cordon on Moorgate, but many were staying.
The mood was described as “festive”, with some people dancing. Four people were playing badminton. By 4.30pm many had begun to disperse. By then police had made 20 arrests.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said three were for public order offences, one was for possession of an offensive weapon, three were for going equipped and 12 were for breaches of the peace.
There was also one arrest relating to a suspect covering his face.
Earlier at Trafalgar Square police intervened after activists put up 20 tents at the foot of Nelson’s Column. Police in riot gear formed lines to prevent demonstrators making their way around St Paul’s Cathedral where the Occupy London Stock Exchange group set up its camp.
Protests were led through central areas from midday by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
Annette Webb, who is reading international development at Portsmouth University, said: “I was against it when they raised fees from £1,000 to £3,000, but to go up to £9,000 will price out most students.”