UK police 'ready' for student protest

2010-11-24 13:39

London - Thousands of students and school pupils will protest across Britain on Wednesday against government plans to raise university tuition fees, two weeks after a demonstration in central London turned violent.

Walkouts and marches are planned at universities, schools and colleges in a national day of action against the coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat government proposals to almost triple tuition charges to up to £9 000 a year.

Two weeks ago, protesters stormed a building that houses the Conservative Party headquarters in London during the first major demonstration directly linked to the £81bn spending cuts announced by the coalition last month.

Police arrested more than 60 people over the disorder which saw windows smashed, objects hurled at officers and a fire extinguisher thrown from the roof of the building.

The head of the London police force admitted they had not been prepared for the trouble, but this time senior officers said they were ready for any eventuality.

"Anyone who plans to take to the streets of London intent on disorder, violence and crime should understand that it won't be tolerated and they will be arrested," said Commander Bob Broadbent, who will head up the capital's operation.

Prime Minister David Cameron described the violence two weeks ago as unacceptable and his spokesperson said he was "looking forward to a peaceful protest" on Wednesday.

Students and campaigners have been outraged by the plans for university funding which followed recommendations to ministers from former BP Chief Executive John Browne.

Accessible education

They are particularly angry with Liberal Democrat legislators, junior partners in the coalition, as they all signed a pledge during this year's election campaign to vote against any rise in fees.

"I think it's about time the government started listening to what the majority of people in this country are actually saying," Clare Solomon, student president of the University of London Union told BBC radio.

"We want an education system that anybody can access, not just those who are in privileged positions or who are rich."

In London, protesters plan to march on the Liberal Democrat party's headquarters and to hold a rally outside Cameron's Downing Street office.

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's offices in Sheffield, northern England, could also be targeted. Organisers said 20 000 young people were expected to take part.

Clegg defended the plans in a speech on Tuesday night, saying the policy was the best available in the circumstances.

"I make just one request of those planning to protest: Examine our proposals before taking to the streets. Listen and look before you march and shout," Clegg said.