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All the international media is reporting the walk over Trafalgar Square.  The amount of police that has been mobilised for this event is of massive proportions.

No messing: Bid to occupy Trafalgar Square nipped in the bud as students protesting against fees are outnumbered by the police

  • Attempts to set up new camp fail within an hour as police swoop on tents
  • 2,500 demonstrators outnumbered by the 4,000 officers deployed on London’s streets, according to police
  • 20 arrests by mid-afternoon, most for breach of the peace
  • Accusations of ‘pre-criminalising’ the protest with rubber bullets threat
 
 A bid to set up a new protest camp in Trafalgar Square failed today as police quickly swooped on tents and activists as thousands of students took to the streets to demonstrate against fees.

The camp was set up by a small group which had broken away from the main protest against tuition fees and spending cuts.

Demonstrators marching through central London seemed to be outnumbered by a huge police presence aimed at preventing violence.

Arrest: Those who had tried to set up the camp in Trafalgar Square were forcibly removed by policeArrest: Those who had tried to set up the camp in Trafalgar Square were forcibly removed by police
 
Tough: Police were trying to ensure that protesters kept on the approved route of the marchTough: Police were trying to ensure that protesters kept on the approved route of the march

 
Camp: Tents were arranged in Trafalgar Square for what threatened to be another encampmentCamp: Tents were arranged in Trafalgar Square for what threatened to be another encampment

Removal: But police were able to clear the square of tents and protesters within an hourRemoval: But police were able to clear the square of tents and protesters within an hour
 
 
Occupiers: A group of protesters arriving with the tents earlier in the afternoonOccupiers: A group of protesters arriving with the tents earlier in the afternoon

 

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 **** off back to Eton’ while demonstrators slowly made their way through the streets.

Estimates that 10,000 people would attend the march appeared to be an exaggeration, according to a policeman who said he thought there were around 2,500 demonstrators.

 More…

However, organisers insisted that the march had in fact drawn around 10,000 participants.

News and police helicopters hovered overhead and onlookers lined the streets as the protest made its way through the capital.

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.

 
Anger: Young protesters march through central London headed for the City as they demonstrate against tuition feesAnger: Young protesters march through central London headed for the City as they demonstrate against tuition fees
 
A protestor in a police hat
Lily Cole protesting
 

Marching: A young protester seemingly wearing a policeman’s hat was one of the demonstrators, as was supermodel Lily Cole, right

 
Musician Jarvis Cocker was seen marching among the students in today's protest in LondonMusician Jarvis Cocker was seen marching among the students in today’s protest in London

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.’

Sitting in one of the tents, protester Sarah, 24, told the Evening Standard: ‘We are going to stay here until the world changes and we create a better society. I have just come from St Paul’s.’

However, police moved swiftly to arrest those responsible and remove the tents they had attempted to put up, clearing the square within an hour.

Their efforts were in stark contrast to the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, which has been in place for a month despite attempts to remove protesters.

 

Out in force: Police were taking no chances as they patrolled in front of the huge column of marchers

Out in force: Police were taking no chances as they patrolled in front of the huge column of marchers

 
 

Idealistic: Protesters hold placards saying 'no public sector cuts' and advising demonstrators to 'protest, strike, occupy'

Idealistic: Protesters hold placards saying ‘no public sector cuts’ and advising demonstrators to ‘protest, strike, occupy’

 
Masked: Many protesters are believed to have come from the Occupy London camp outside St Paul's CathedralMasked: Many protesters are believed to have come from the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral

Kurt Stallwood, 27, from London, who has previously camped out at St Paul’s, 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.’

Police kitted out in riot gear formed lines on Fleet Street to prevent demonstrators making their way towards St Paul’s Cathedral where the Occupy London Stock Exchange group set up its camp.

‘We are trying to stop them getting down to St Paul’s and causing mass chaos,’ one officer said.

Undercover police dressed as demonstrators swooped in to arrest anarchists as they approached the City of London.

Mounted officers were ran at the crowd to push it back as a small group of anarchists surged towards the front line of the march, hurling sticks at the officers.

Police appeared to lose control as the front of the march moved from Fetter Lane into Holborn Viaduct.

Around 200 masked protestors wearing their hoods up and carrying the black and red anarchist flag managed to break through police lines and congregate near the Stock Exchange.

Earlier one student taking part in the peaceful protest said: ‘What are they doing? They are bloody idiots. They are just ruining it for everyone.’ But an undercover police squad swooped in to make arrests.

The officers, looking scruffy in hoodies and jeans, grabbed protestors and took them to waiting police vans as others shouted ‘shame on you’.

The plain clothes officers pushed back the media and shouted ‘the police are making arrests’ as they grabbed hold of anarchists and marched them towards the van.

Around seven plain clothes officers surrounded each protestor. A uniformed police line held back the rest of the march.

Police had made 20 arrests in total as crowds started to thin out by late afternoon.

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 breaches of the peace. There was also one arrest relating to a suspect covering his face.

 
Satire: Many of the youthful crowd were carrying humorous placards and banners
 
Demonstration: Around 2,500 students are marching through London todayDemonstration: Around 2,500 students are marching through London today
 
Officers: 4,000 police have been deployed to monitor today's marchOfficers: 4,000 police have been deployed to monitor today’s march
 
Police earlier handed out leaflets and warned demonstrators they risk arrest if they do not stay on the agreed route. Marchers were also told they would be allowed to remain at London Wall for only 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.

Organisers claimed ‘antagonistic’ police comments ahead of the protest made it more likely that trouble would 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.’

The demonstration comes exactly a year after thousands of people first took to the streets to protest against the Government’s higher education plans.

Those protests descended into chaos, with violent clashes erupting between police officers and troublemakers who hijacked the marches, leading to hundreds of arrests.

Amid fears that those scenes could be repeated, Scotland Yard announced that baton rounds, or rubber bullets, will be made available for police chiefs to use if necessary.

 
Spilling over: A number of marchers broke off from the designated route and in to Trafalgar SquareSpilling over: A number of marchers broke off from the designated route and in to Trafalgar Square
 
Iconic: This mask has been seen in anti-capitalist protests around the world, including the camp at St Paul'sIconic: This mask has been seen in anti-capitalist protests around the world, including the camp at St Paul’s
 
 Dee Doocey, a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly, expressed 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.’

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.’

Threat: Police have been authorised to use baton rounds - rubber bullets - in case of violenceThreat: Police have been authorised to use baton rounds – rubber bullets – in case of violence
 
 

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,’ he 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.’

Mr Chessum added: ‘They have made it more likely that trouble will occur.’

He said that students are protesting particularly over the Government’s White Paper on higher education, which they claim will lead to the privatisation of the sector.

Protests were led through central areas of London by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts starting from midday.

 
Preparation: An organiser puts placards together ahead of today's student demonstrationPreparation: An organiser puts placards together ahead of today’s student demonstration
 
Gathering: Students are showing their anger at the Government's higher education reformsGathering: Students are showing their anger at the Government’s higher education reforms
 

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,’ the police chief 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.’

Regarding the potential use of baton rounds, a police spokesman said: ‘There are a range of tactics available if there is criminality and violence associated with the event.

‘One of these is the authority to deploy baton rounds in extreme circumstances.

‘These are carried by a small number of trained officers and are not held and used by those officers policing the route on Wednesday.’

 
 
 

 

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