The president of the National Union of Students pulled out of speaking at a public anti-cuts rally after he was surrounded by demonstrators who called for his resignation.
Aaron Porter was due to address the rally about the effects of spending cuts on young people but was forced to step down after he needed a police escort of a dozen officers to the students’ union building at Manchester Metropolitan University. An angry group of around 150 people followed as they unsuccessfully attempted to gain entry into the site.
Around 4,000 protesters later gathered peacefully in Manchester’s Platt Fields Park to hear claims from union leaders that the Government was “betraying” an entire generation, but a total of 16 arrests were made as a splinter group of a few hundred later marched to the city centre.
Police said the breakaway group was intent on inciting violence and causing damage as intelligence suggested a number were armed with chef’s knives and razor blades.
Assistant Chief Constable Neil Wain said the rally organisers had dissociated themselves from the city centre unrest and said they were nothing to do with the organised demonstrators.
Earlier, Mr Porter was subjected to chants of: “Students, workers, hear our shout! We want Aaron Porter out!” and “Aaron Porter we know you, you’re a f****** Tory too!” It was reported that a chant of “Tory Jew scum” was also aimed at Mr Porter.
When the rally got under way, missiles – including eggs and oranges – were thrown on stage at Shane Chowen, NUS vice president for further education. He quickly left the platform to a chorus of boos from sections of the crowd when he told them: “The majority of students are behind the NUS and UCU (University and College Union). We are fighting on your behalf.”
A few hundred young protesters drifted away though before the end of the rally and headed back in the direction of where the march had started near the university. Around 100 campaigners then darted into a packed Arndale Centre where most stores inside were open. Staff at Top Man and Vodafone managed to get their shutters down as protesters stopped and screamed: “Pay your taxes!”
A number of the campaigners were arrested and bundled into police vans. Around 100 protesters were later contained by police on Deansgate near to the Hilton Hotel.
Thousands of students also gathered in central London to protest against Government cuts and university fee hikes.