Police use fear of kettling to dilute tuition fee protests

Thousands of protesters dispersed before the end of the tightly controlled rally

POLICE deployed temporary and semi-kettling tactics during the student march through London today prompting hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters to leave prematurely.

The police were accused of scare tactics in the days leading up to the march announcing that the use of rubber bullets had been authorised and sending letters to people arrested at previous demos warning them to stay away, behave or risk arrest.

The protest, that went from Mallet Street, near Russell Square, to London Wall, in the City, via Trafalgar Square, was repeatedly stopped by a police line, that included horses, leading the demo as it reached the City holding back increasingly frustrated protesters who began to leave or take alternative routes.

Aaron Peters, a Phd student at UCL who was heavily involved in its occupation last year, described the march, of around 6,000 people policed by 4,000 officers, as being in a rolling kettle.

The march was organised by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts to protest the increase in tuition fees and the creeping privatisation of education, but opposition to a failing capitalist system, bank bail-outs and cuts to welfare services was also voiced.

The frustration at police tactics spilled over after an extended delay near Holborn with demonstrators pushing forward and police horses making a small charge in return.

One video on Youtube showed undercover officers aggressively pulling a man from the crowd before taking him away under arrest.

Outnumbered the police backed-off and allowed the march to continue as hundreds of additional police arrived forming a new cordon behind the parade that followed it to London Wall where a final rally was held and authorised by police to continue until 6pm.

As thousands listened to speeches and danced to a blaring sound system police formed a kettle causing panic with hundreds initially allowed to leave as hundreds who were not protested to police with one man being dragged inside against his wishes for no apparent reason.

About 20 minutes later, with hundreds of protesters clearly concerned at being detained indefinitely, the police line opened and let around a further 500 leave before closing the cordon again.

The tactic was repeated letting a similar amount leave before relaxing the cordon and allowing people to come and go as they pleased with around a thousand protesters left who were happy to stay and dance.

Earlier, as the march passed Trafalgar Square, a breakaway group of demonstrators pitched around 25 tents in a bid to occupy the square before police moved in and cleared the site.

During what was largely a good natured march, the Metropolitan Police reported 24 arrests for breach of the peace, possession of an offensive weapon and various public order offences by 5pm today.

Along the route construction workers downed tools and congregated on scaffolding cheering on the march and waving placards calling for students and workers to unite in their fight against government cuts.

Earlier in the day electricians marched through London to parliament in protest at a planned 35% cut in wages before being reportedly kettled for more than an hour.

University minister, David Willets, earlier denied that the privatisation of the education system and higher tuition fees would disadvantage students telling the BBC ‘we are putting students at the heart of the system, with a diverse range of providers offering high-quality teaching. Going to university depends on ability not the ability to pay’.

A further march organised by the NCAFC is planned for November 23 ‘to speed up the fight to defend education’.

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