Tuesday 12 December 2017

Video: Thousands join new student fee protests in London

Police officers walk ahead of student protestors in central London
Police officers walk ahead of student protestors in central London

Ella Pickover and Jessica Winch

THOUSANDS of students took to the streets today to protest against the British Government's higher education plans despite police warnings about using rubber bullets if violence erupts.

Hundreds of police officers lined the route as demonstrators started a march to voice their anger over funding cuts and plans to triple tuition fees.

Organisers claim "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, which is frankly embarrassing."

John Roberts, a 25-year-old architect from London, said: "I have got friends who haven't come along because of the threat of rubber bullets."

Imperial College PhD student Sheridan Few, 24, added: "I think it makes it even more important - we shouldn't be intimidated."

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 f*** 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."

News and police helicopters hovered overhead and workers came out of their offices to look at the march, which was led by mounted police.

Officers on foot carrying batons and riot helmets walked alongside the protesters.

Police handed out leaflets and warned demonstrators they risk arrest if they do not stay on the agreed route. Marchers were also told they would only be allowed to remain at London Wall 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.

He added that there had been no early trouble.

Dee Doocey, a London Assembly Liberal Democrat member, echoed anger over the potential use of rubber bullets.

She said: "Their use in Northern Ireland has led to 17 lives being lost, including eight children. How can anyone believe plastic bullets deliver security when their record is so horrific?"

"I will be challenging the Met Commissioner over this misguided policy they have adopted at the next full authority meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority."

An officer walking alongside the march said it was estimated that there were around 2,500 protesters.

Daisy Robinson, student from the Central School if Speech and Drama in London, said: "It is just not fair, education should be available to everyone.

"The Government has not done anything for us."

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.

"It will mean that education is only for the rich and I believe it should be for everyone."

James Dodge, 22, from Ashford, Kent, added: "I like to exercise my free right to protest, even when it is being curtailed by the Metropolitan Police."

Sarah Weldon, who studies media at Birmingham University, said: "When I voted for the Liberal Democrats it was because they were closest to what students wanted and Clegg said he would never raise tuition fees.

"I am in my final year of university but it seems unfair for those who are just starting."

A group split off from the march and quickly made a makeshift camp in Trafalgar Square.

Anti-capitalist "occupy" activists put up 20 tents at the foot of Nelson's Column.

They said they were planning to stay for as "long as possible" and chanted "Whose square? Our square."

Kurt Stallwood, 27, from London, who has previously camped out at St Paul's Cathedral, said: "Trafalgar Square has been a focal point for demonstrations for years.

"We all know something is wrong, something needs to change, and the more people who realise that they are not alone in this the better."

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