9 Nov 2011

Police out in force for student protests

Thousands of officers on duty in central London in a bid to keep the streets calm as protesters march against the goverment’s plans for higher education.

Thousands of students took to the streets in London to protest against higher tuition fees and university funding cuts.

But after the violence which flared up during the last student protests, police were out in force to keep a lid on any potential trouble. Earlier, police warned that they had been authorised to use plastic bullets if necessary.

Officers said around 2,500 people attended the demo, which was mainly peaceful.

Minor skirmishes broke out as officers made several arrests as they moved a group camped at Trafalgar Square in pop-up tents. Echoing the Occupy London campaigners, camped at St Paul’s, one of their banners read: “Occupy Everything, Take London.”

There were other violent exchanges as some anarchists threw items at police lines.

Police out in force for student protests (Getty)

Some students claimed earlier that “antagonistic” police comments ahead of the protest have made it more likely that trouble will occur.

Demonstrator Beth Atkinson, 27, from London, said: “It is ludicrous. It is antagonistic, it is like they are egging on a fight.”

Get the latest in the Channel 4 News student protests live blog

Michael Chessum, spokesman for the march organiser, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, told Channel 4 News: “The last thing you do when you want a protest to be peaceful is ramp up the violence. This is a scare tactic, designed to scare people from making a democratic stand.”

Protesters carried placards reading “scrap tuition fees” and “free education”, and there were chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts”.

One demonstrator said she decided to join today’s march in “solidarity” with students after her brother was jailed for violent disorder following the last fees protest.

Ariadne Mitchell-Kotsakis, 24, a documentary researcher from Ladbroke Grove, west London, also hit out at the “overwhelming” police presence.

“I think it’s too much,” she said.

“I think the march is a lot smaller than they were expecting and having this number of officers is quite overwhelming. I’m here because my brother Zenon was sentenced to 15 months at Kingston Crown Court. I’m here for solidarity and to be part of it.”

The Oxford University graduate also condemned moves which led numerous universities to raise tuition fees.

“I think it’s disgusting. I am angry, sad and frustrated,” she added.

Read more: Students say plastic bullets threat is scare tactic

Officers on foot carrying batons and riot helmets are walking alongside the protesters. Police also handed out leaflets and warned demonstrators they risked arrest if they did not stay on the agreed route. Marchers were also told they would only be allowed to remain at London Wall, the final destination of the march, for two hours.

“Anyone who knowingly fails to comply with these conditions, or who incites others to fail to comply, is committing an offence and may be liable to arrest,” said a Scotland Yard spokesman.

Picture below of the brief ‘occupation’ of Trafalgar Square, now cleared by police.

The brief 'occupation' of Trafalgar Square during the student protests (Getty)