London Student Protest Over Fees Draws Thousands
LONDON -- Thousands of students marched through central London on Wednesday to protest cuts to public spending and a big increase in university tuition fees.
At Trafalgar Square, a group of protesters erected more than 20 tents at the foot of Nelson's Column in the latest spinoff of the Occupy Wall Street protest camp movement. The tents were quickly cleared away by police.
The marchers had planned to link up with an existing protest camp against corporate greed outside St. Paul's Cathedral, but were stopped by lines of police in riot gear.
Police said more than 2,000 people were taking part as the march set off with chants of "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts." Organizers estimated the crowd at 10,000.
About 4,000 police officers were deployed along the route, which wound from the University of London to the city's financial district. Previous student protests have ended in violence by a minority of demonstrators, including a spontaneous attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla in December.
Police said there were "a number of arrests for public order offenses" Wednesday, but the march was largely peaceful as demonstrators made their way through the city center.
Annette Webb, an international development student at Portsmouth University, said tripling tuition fees to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) from next year "will price out most students."
"It will mean that education is only for the rich and I believe it should be for everyone," she said.
Police warned that anyone involved in criminal activity during the march would face arrest and prosecution. Police said protesters may face being "kettled" -- contained inside a cordon -- if there is a threat of serious disorder.
Protest organizers accused the police of trying to intimidate marchers after reports that officers would be authorized to use rubber bullets if violence broke out. London police said officers along the route would not be issued with rubber bullets and they would only be used in "extreme circumstances."