THE CITY is today bracing itself for planned protests over student fees, as police said they had taken precautions in case the demonstrations turn violent.
Four thousand officers will be on duty in an attempt to prevent the 10,000-strong protest descending into a similar frenzy of violence to that seen last year, when demonstrators took police by surprise and attacked Conservative Party headquarters.
Today members of the tent city camp outside St Paul’s are expected to join the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts march, although the route will bypass the cathedral. Police have pledged to prevent groups from getting close to the London Stock Exchange, the original target for Occupy LSX.
Commander Simon Pountain, who is in charge of the Met Police operation, said that baton rounds – non-lethal “rubber bullets” – would be used only in an emergency, such as to rescue officers from attack.
“If they’re stuck and their lives are at risk, then I would use that to protect them.”
After moving from Bloomsbury to The Strand protesters are due to march through Fleet Street, Holborn and Newgate Street before a rally, due to last an hour, begins at London Wall at 3.30pm. Fixed and temporary road closures will be in use from 9am.
Meanwhile Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday poured scorn on the St Paul’s group and rejected claims its appearance is part of the Big Society.
“Protest is, to me, a separate issue. It is certainly a right that people have, but I have got this rather quaint view that you shouldn’t be able to erect tents all over the place.
“I think protesting is something you, on the whole, should do on two feet rather than lying down – in some cases in a fairly comatose state.”