POLICE arrested 24 people yesterday as thousands of tuition fee protesters marched through London, but attempts to set up a new “tent city” were quickly foiled.
Widespread violence failed to materialise after the Met swamped the capital with 4,000 officers. Activists were held on suspicion of offences including violent disorder, affray and breach of the peace after a group split off from the main march from Bloomsbury to the City.
Many of the arrests came when the breakaway group pitched more than 20 pop-up tents at the base of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square. Police quickly cleared the tents, however, in order to prevent them setting up a camp similar to that at St Paul’s.
The protest was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts over tuition fee rises and the coalition’s “privatisation” of higher education. Campaign leader Michael Chessum said: “We are being told by a cabinet of millionaires that we will have to pay triple tuition fees.”
Minor scuffles broke out as police carrying riot helmets funnelled protesters on the main march through the streets towards their rallying point at London Wall.
Protesters echoed the slogans of Occupy LSX and carried banners such as “Education for the 99 per cent”.
Electricians and taxi drivers also staged protests in the run-up to a nationwide one-day strike by public sector workers on 30 November.
Last night, however, the Met said the day appeared to have passed without any major incidents. Initial estimates put the turnout for the main march below the 10,000 expected.
The Met, which was criticised for its response to the summer riots and frenzied violence by anti-tuition fees protesters last year, took a tougher line in the run-up to yesterday’s event. It closed roads, deployed helicopters, called in help from other forces and threatened the use of rubber bullets.