|A police van is attacked during the London march against tuition fee increases|
Three people were arrested for violent disorder and theft in London as thousands of students across the country staged sit-ins, walk-outs and demonstrations in opposition to government proposals to increase tuition fees.
Police deployed extra reserves in a bid to prevent a repeat of ugly scenes that marred the student march two weeks ago. Scotland Yard said “an increased reserve capability’’ was on stand-by to deal with any unexpected disorder or outbreaks of violence.
Thousands of protestors marched on the parliament building in London and scores of secondary school and sixth form pupils also joined student demonstrators in cities including Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield.
“A lot of protestors here today are of school age,” said Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of the union Unite.
Aaron Porter, President of the National Union of Students, said the NUS had not organised the protest action. “Individual students’ unions and across the country have shown they are more than capable of organising excellent peaceful protests that bring together their communities and we will support them fully in doing that,” he said.
“I am very aware of the overwhelming anger and strength of opposition from students and their families to the government’s miserable vision for the future of our education – but I am also aware that we need to win over hearts and minds to our cause and violence will not help us to do that.”
Earlier this month a march of 50,000 students protesting against the rise in tuition fees became violent after protestors broke into the Conservative party headquarters in London, smashing windows and throwing missiles. A student pleaded guilty on Wednesday to throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Millbank Tower.
Schoolchildren and sixth-formers in London on Wednesday attacked the abolition of the education maintenance allowance, a weekly benefit designed to help keep young people in education, which is paid to students from low-income families.
“I’m supporting friends who are receiving the EMA, and I’m protesting on their behalf,” said Anna Bradley, aged 17.
Ms Cartmail of Unite said: “We are here to show token support because we think that young people might feel genuinely abandoned.” Many teenage pupils had gone into school in the morning for registration before attending the protest, she added.
Jessica Fusco-Fagg, 16, registered at her sixth form college in north London before leaving classes to attend the protest. “The government hasn’t listened to peaceful protests in the past,” she said. “We’re the people who will be the doctors and police in the future. You are damaging our generation’s prospects.”
Imogen Hindmarsh, who is hoping to study sociology and English at Manchester University, said she would be in the first cohort of university hopefuls to be affected by the cuts. “Attending the protest shows you are making an effort – that you are politically aware and you care,” she said.