Students are returning to the streets to protest against increases in university tuition fees with a series of occupations, rallies and marches.
Organisers said feelings were still running high following the demonstration by 50,000 students and lecturers two weeks ago which ended in violence. But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged students to call off the demonstrations – telling them the Government’s policy would benefit less well-off youngsters.
On the previous day of protests, a group of activists smashed windows, threw missiles and lit fires at 30 Millbank, the building housing Conservative Party headquarters, leading to more than 60 arrests and dozens injured and taken to hospital.
Police, supported by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit have been monitoring all sources of information in a bid to anticipate the latest protests. Senior officers do not want to be caught out again by the unexpected splintering of the march on November 10, organised by the National Union of Students and the University and College Union, that preceded the Millbank riot.
Marches have been organised in several towns and cities, with school and college students joining the action. Musician Jarvis Cocker is among those protesting, lending his support to a Royal College of Art students’ union protest in Kensington, west London, while university workers are organising joint rallies with students in cities including Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester and Cambridge.
A rally will be held in London’s Trafalgar Square followed by a march to Parliament and a protest outside the headquarters of the Liberal Democrat headquarters and later in Downing Street.
The Sheffield offices of Lib Dem leader Mr Clegg, are also expected to be targeted for action while a delegation of students will present a letter to Mr Clegg at the Lib Dem HQ. It reads: “No amount of twisted reasoning from either you or Vince Cable can hide what everyone can see: you have lied to us. We call on you to withdraw LibDem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed.”
The Lib Dems have come under intense fire over Government plans to charge students as much as £9,000 per year in fees from 2012 after pledging before the general election to oppose any hike. But Mr Clegg suggested the students should instead be protesting about the “scandalously” high proportion of pupils from the schools he and David Cameron attended getting places at Oxbridge.
The protest has been dubbed Day X, with parents and teachers, trade unionists, pensioners, disability and housing activists invited to join students for the protest at Downing Street to make clear the public’s opposition to spending cuts.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister’s view is that it is a democratic right to protest. The Government has set out its policy regarding tuition fees that are more progressive and are as fair as possible in the current economic climate. He is looking forward to a peaceful protest.”