Today’s demonstration against tuition fees has so far seen only minor scuffles breaking out between protesters and police, but a flashpoint emerged in Trafalgar Square as a group of demonstrators were arrested after they tried to set up a tent city. And there is growing controversy over the decision by police to reserve the right to use rubber bullets as a measure of last resort.
This video shows the chaos in Trafalgar Square as police tried to deal with protesters who refused to leave, while this video shows more scenes as police informed protesters that they were in breach of public order. For police, the situation is made particularly difficult because they are dealing with protests on three fronts: the main tuition fees protest; the ongoing Occupy protest around St Paul’s; and a separate electricians’ protest, which has already ended but which has increased tensions.
Those on the scene say that the police presence is massive, with the marchers accompanied every step of their route by police officers who in some cases are walking backwards in an effort to maintain eye contact with the demonstration at all times. Roads are closed and one witness described Central London as being virtually “apocalyptic”. There are no signs of any serious violence or disorder, but as dusk comes there will obviously be concern that tempers – on both sides – could become frayed, especially if controversial crowd control tactics such as kettling cause problems.