Students dodge police in UK protest over tuition fees

Students dodge police in UK protest over tuition fees
# 30 November 2010 22:21 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Thousands of students played a game of cat and mouse with police in central London on Tuesday in a protest against planned rises in university tuition fees, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Police in riot gear guarded government buildings amid fears the demonstration would end in violence like two protests earlier this month.
But in a bid to avoid being "kettled," a containment tactic used by police, demonstrators broke up into groups which spread out through the streets of the capital.
Organisers had called for students and school pupils to take to the streets in a national day of action against the Conservative-led coalition government’s plans to almost triple tuition fees to up to 9,000 pounds ($14,500) a year.
In London, protesters had planned to march along Whitehall, home to many government departments, to parliament for speeches from lawmakers and union leaders.
"I think it’s just lucky that this many people have managed to evade that (being kettled) and are marching freely along the streets of London," said Robin Engelhard, 18.
The Metropolitan Police said there had been no major incidents and they were trying to facilitate the protest.
The number of protesters appeared to be smaller than at the two previous rallies, amid freezing temperatures and snow.
During one march earlier this month, protesters smashed windows and started fires at the building housing Conservative Party headquarters in London. There were scuffles and vandalism during another in the capital last week.
Police were criticized on both occasions, for failing to realize the potential for trouble at the first and then for allegedly heavy-handed tactics at the second.
Senior officers have warned since that no disorder will be tolerated. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson said "the game has changed" in policing protests and he expected more trouble.
The student demonstrations are the first major protests directly linked to the government’s spending cuts. Labor unions are warning of strikes and more action as anger rises over job cuts and the loss of some public services.
Riot police were called to break up a demonstration against cuts planned by the Lewisham local authority in south London on Monday, with 16 officers suffering minor injuries in clashes.
Student protesters say they feel betrayed by the coalition government, in particular by its junior partner the Liberal Democrats, who had promised before May’s general election to oppose higher tuition fees.
The issue is to be debated in parliament on Tuesday. Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has written to the National Union of Students to say that although his party could not keep its pledge, the plans were fair and progressive.
Business Secretary Vince Cable, a Liberal Democrat minister whose department is responsible for implementing the proposals, told media on Tuesday he might abstain in a vote.
Students have been occupying university buildings as part of their campaign against the fee plans, part of austerity measures which will see 81 billion pounds of spending cuts over four years.