Only 24 arrests at tuition fee march

Met police have authority to use rubber bullets against students
Met police have authority to use rubber bullets against students

By Tony Hudson

Today's tuition fee protest through central London appears to have passed off without significant violence.

Only 24 arrests were made during the march, 12 of which were for breaching the peace. Three were arrested for violent disorder and three for affray.

The limited arrests reflected the largely peaceful nature of the event. Up to 10,000 demonstrators angry at the government's decision to triple tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 had marched in a national demo across the capital.

The protest started off peacefully, although there were some minor scuffles with the police.

By 14:45 GMT the Metropolitan police confirmed it had made a number of arrests. The march reached London Wall an hour later.

Earlier, police had struggled to get the protest to continue along the planned route. The march briefly became stationary at Fetter Lane and Holburn Circus.

A small group of protesters briefly broke off from the set route, which the Metropolitan police said contravened the Public Order Act.

At Trafalgar Square approximately 200 people had gathered. Around 30 tents were erected but these were quickly removed by police.

Police announced a two-hour limit for the main body of the protest to occupy the London Wall area, opening up the possibility of clashes occurring in the early evening.

But with no reports of major clashes the protest, which remained mostly peaceful despite arrests, began winding down at around 16:30 GMT.

Met officers charged with maintaining order during the protest were well-prepared for any repeat of the violence seen this time last year, when students destroyed the reception area of the building containing the Conservative party's headquarters.

This year the Met had confirmed it has the authority to use 'baton rounds' - rubber bullets - in an extreme situation.

The likelihood of rubber bullets being used was always minimal, as even this summer's riots were not deemed sufficient to warrant their deployment. But media attention in the run-up to today's march focused attention on the threat posed by police officers, not students.

Reports of baton rounds were "part of a deeply cynical attempt to pre-criminalise protest", the march's organisers said.


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