Via Al Jazeera
Heavy police presence as thousands take to the streets in protests against government plans to raise university fees.
Students and school pupils have begun protests across the United Kingdom against government plans to raise university tuition fees, two weeks after a demonstration in central London turned violent.
Thousands of campaigners have taken to the streets in London, many holding anti-government placards, calling for free education.
“There is a very heavy police presence – tens of vans, horses, motorbikes and scores of officers,” Al Jazeera’s Jacqueline Head, reporting from the scene of the demonstrations in London, said.
“In front of them is a very loud crowd shouting their opposition to the tuition fee hike.
“Protesters are burning placards sending up a huge cloud of black smoke. Riot police and horses have been sent in.”
TV footage showed a police vehicle surrounded by a crowd of protesters, some of them hitting it with bars and sticks, while others had climbed on top of it.
Lib Dem focus
The protests were planned after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government proposed to almost triple tuition charges to up to $14,500 a year.
Organisers are expecting 20,000 young people to participate in Wednesday’s demonstrations.
Two weeks ago, protesters stormed the Conservative Party headquarters in London. It was the first major demonstration directly linked to the $130bn spending cuts announced by the government last month.
Al Jazeera’s Head said that the police appeared to have a strategy to contain Wednesday’s protest, after the previous in violence at the previous demonstration.
“They’ve moved in and ‘kettled’ the protesters about 200 metres from the Houses of Parliament. Its proving effective right now. No one is getting in or out.”
The head of the London police force acknowleged that they had not been prepared for the trouble, but this time senior officers say that they are ready for any eventuality.
Commander Bob Broadbent, heading up the capital’s operation said: “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.”
Violence ‘not acceptable’
David Cameron, the prime minister, described the violence two weeks ago as unacceptable and his spokesman said that he was “looking forward to a peaceful protest” on Wednesday.
Students and campaigners have been outraged by the plans for university funding.
Their anger is particularly directed at Liberal Democrat politicians, as they all signed a pledge during this year’s election campaign to vote against any rise in fees.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has defended the plans in a speech saying that 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,” he said.