A second protest by Liverpool students against the Government’s cuts to higher education and increased tuition fees resulted in a tense confrontation with police.
In the wake of the nationwide student protests that took place last week, a further round of demonstrations took place in the city, though much smaller than the 3,000-strong march through Liverpool last Wednesday.
At noon on Tuesday, around 300 demonstrators gathered in University Square, all seemingly unsure as to who was in control of the situation. The lack of organisation was also evident in the lead-up to the protest, with Merseyside Police sending out urgent pleas for organisers to get in touch to let them know what their plans were.
In the early exchanges there was friendly conversation between
officers and the protesters, with humour being made of the large
police presence, which seemed to be outnumbering the students
at one point.
After a lengthy and chilly stand-off, eventually the demonstration
was paraded around to the front of the Liverpool Guild of Students
building, where an array of speakers had been lined up.
The speeches came from spokesmen for different unions
representing workers, students and lecturers. All were damning of
the fees increases, expressing their desire for the planned
changes to be stopped, in a dignified manner.
The megaphone was passed to Robert Sutton, a member of the
‘Liverpool University Against Fees and Cuts’ group, to make a
brief speech to close off the day’s demonstrations. He told those
assembled: “Now let’s not just go home. Let’s march down to
Oxford Street, and let the whole city know that we are here.”
What followed would not have been believable just minutes earlier,
as the protestors charged away from the speech area and off towards Oxford Street.
Police were waiting for the students at the end of the path, forming a human blockade halting any attempts to march out into the street. Those at the front front of the crowd began to push against the police lines.
The police held firm for a short while, before finally succumbing to a wave of protesters that broke through, forcing a scramble on the icy pavement, which made for an almost comical scene as students and policemen alike fell to the ground.
Simultaneously, another set of protesters managed to climb on top of the walkway over Oxford Street. They were predominantly ignored as these exchanges were taking place, though their cause was not completely unnoticed as they would later force the closure of the street while they were brought down.
A group of demonstrators staged a sit-down protest, blocking traffic in both directions on the busy Oxford Street. After the clashes and two arrests, the fuel seemed to be taken out of the protest, and the situation calmed down very quickly.
A brief open forum was staged in University Square before police dispersed what remained of the crowd.
By Andrew Hill, Alan Bond, Max Owen, Liam Harrison & Tom Bramwell
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Police try to contain the crowds near the University of Liverpool campus; YouTube: footage of the protest