London: thousands of students protesting against tuition fees and cuts
Thousands of students took London streets today to demonstrate against tuition fees and spending cuts.
Hundreds of police officers lined the route as over 2,500 demonstrators started a march to voice their anger over funding cuts and plans to treble tuition fees.
A breakaway group of protesters tried to set up tents in Trafalgar Square, but police were quick to remove the tents and arrest those who had brought them.
Students carried placards which read “Scrap Tuition Fees” and “Free Education”.
There were chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” and “David Cameron **** off back to Eton” while protesters slowly made their way through the streets.
There were estimates that 10,000 people would attend the march proved to be an exaggeration, as a policeman said he thought there were around 2,500 demonstrators.
News and police helicopters hovered overhead and onlookers lined the streets as the protest made its way through London.
Workers gathered at office windows to watch the demonstration, waving and smiling at those on the roads below. Music blared from speakers while protesters appeared to chat amicably with riot police.
Officers on foot carrying batons and riot helmets walked alongside the protesters.
A group split off from the march and quickly made a makeshift camp in Trafalgar Square. Anti-capitalist Occupy London activists put up 20 tents at the foot of Nelson’s Column.
However, police moved swiftly to arrest those responsible and remove the tents they had attempted to put up, clearing the square within an hour.
Michael Chessum, lead organiser of the demonstration, yesterday accused police chiefs of acting in a “political and cynical” manner.
“What the police have done is extremely political and a cynical attempt to put people off from coming to a national demonstration,” Michael Chessum said.
“What they are doing is trying to put people off and pre-criminalising the process.
“They are ramping up the pressure and in the process being completely irresponsible.
“They have made it more likely that trouble will occur.”
Michael Chessum said that students are protesting particularly over the Government’s White Paper on higher education, which they claim will lead to the privatization of the sector.
Protests were led through central areas of London by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts starting from midday.
Scotland Yard Commander Simon Pountain said that around 4,000 officers would be on duty thanks to mutual aid provided by other forces.
“We know the overwhelming majority of students are law abiding and we hope this will be a peaceful event,” Simon Pountain said.
“We certainly don’t see it as inevitable that we will witness a repeat of last year’s scenes of violence and criminal damage.
“However, it would be negligent if we did not plan a response to the small minority who may be intent on disruption and may not intend to be peaceful.”