Seb Wheeler, Sam Foster and Germaine Arnold are reporting from inside the ‘kettle’, the area in which police have contained protesters in Whitehall. Charlie Cooper and Chris Stevenson are reporting from just outside.
They are now slowly letting people out of the kettle. Very slowly…
The word in the kettle is that “Nick Clegg has just admitted he was wrong about the cuts. They are still not letting people out and it’s very cold,” Sam Foster reports.
We can confirm that a group of protesters have thrown items at buses near Trafalgar Square. Chris Stevenson reports: One bus driver, Lee Harlow from Transdev, said they were picking up chairs, rubbish bags and other debris and hurling it against the buses (including his).
There are chairs and other debris all over the street, and some say protesters have been trying to throw items at buses near Trafalgar Square, reports Chris Stevenson.
Protesters have got out of Whitehall via a side street, exiting near Trafalgar Square. A fire was set in the side street, reports Chris Stevenson.
Protesters are trying to pick up barricades and move towards police, but nothing thrown yet, reports Chris Stevenson.
A large number of police horses have just charged down the street outside the kettle, reports Charlie Cooper.
A police horse just bolted into the crowd outside the kettle, reports Charlie Cooper.
Alex Callinicos, a lecturer at King’s College, said: “The police were heavy handed but the day has been remarkable for the cause.” He engaged in protests as a student at Oxford in the 1970s, but feels that causes such as this are far more important than anything he campaigned for in his youth. “Today we are fighting for our very ability to be students,” he said. He also stated proudly that students are setting an example for the rest of the country about how to respond to the cuts.
Seb Wheeler reports that people are supposed to be funnelled out of the kettle within the next hour.
Charlie Cooper reports from outside the kettle: “A small group has staged a sit down protest in Whitehall by the cenotaph, alongside police in riot gear and mounted officers. They have got books out and started reading. Some are linking arms and singing.”
Sam Foster reports: “The police van is now occupied by protesters. They now have lots of riot gear. The kettle might be about to boil. There are also police with cameras positioned on top of surrounding buildings taking photos of those committing violence.”
Seb Wheeler reports that people are getting bored and riot shields are being stolen. Sam Foster has spoken to the man who stole a police riot shield, who says: “I’m happy with the shield but I just want to go home.” The police van is being looted.
Speaking to a seasoned demonstrator in the kettle, Sam Foster is told that this could go on for 3 or 4 hours, the theory being that if they keep protesters here for that long they won’t want to do it again.
“The kettle has worked. Morale is very low, the protesters are outgunned,” reports Seb Wheeler.
“It feels like the end of a festival. Everyone wants to go home yet they kind of want to stay,” reports Sam Foster.
Views from protesters caught in the thick of the standoff with police:
Seb Collins, 17, from Riddlesdown College, said:”I don’t think it’s helping at all. I’m with the police on this one.”
Sean Lynch, 25, from Goldsmiths college, said: “The police’s approach is ridiculous, they’ve penned everyone in, left an old police van in the middle of the road. The average age here is 15!”
Roxanne, an art student at Central St. Martins, said: “This is pointless.”
Police prepare to advance. They are officially giving all women the option to be let out of the kettle.
General unrest in the crowd, protesters are beginning to push back. Seb Wheeler reports: “It’s a Mexican standoff. The police aren’t messing around this time.”
Views from protesters on the violence:
Hannah Wilson, 20, a drama student, said: “I don’t like it. It should be peaceful. Our president has just told me that she is disappointed. We don’t want violence, the media will focus on that instead of the message.”
Tom Mayer, 23, a student at SOAS, said: “It would be better if it were peaceful, everyone needs to have a clear message.”
Lorna Hamwell, 48, a protester from Norfolk, said: “With an injustice as big as this some violence could be justified if it got publicity.”
What began as a bit of fun seems to be spiraling out of control. Protesters are now smashing and spraying graffiti on the police van. A firework has been set off and smokebombs have been thrown. The most discord, in fact, seems to be between protesters, with a tug of war between those who want a peaceful carnival atmosphere and those who want more violent direct action reminiscent of the attack on Millbank tower last week. “Many are annoyed with the violence and not sure what to do,” said our reporter, Sam Foster. “There is much elaborate attention-seeking.”
Protesters have moved in on an empty police van and are dancing happily on top. A troubadour is entertaining the crowd from the top of the van. “I just heard a girl say ‘this is one of the best weeks of my life!’,” reports Seb Wheeler.
Small scuffles are breaking out between police and protesters. A minor bonfire of placards has been lit.
Protesters are breaking down barriers and throwing debris, Germaine Arnold reports.
Views from Goldsmiths lecturers:
Charlie Cooper reports: Addressing the rally in front of the university’s main building, Robert Gordon, from the Drama department, said he was “very proud” of the students who marched last week. “We should be supporting students and we should be doing it loudly,” he said of today’s protests.
Anna Furse, a also from the department of Drama, said she had received a telephone call from her daughter to say, “I’m on the march, Mum.” She said she fully supports the school walkout.
“This government thinks that only those who can afford these higher fees have the right to go to university,” said Angela Phillips, a lecturer in Media & Communications. “They are saying that thinking is something that should be done for private profit and not the public good.”
Protesters are now kettled (i.e. contained within a limited area by police) in Parliament Square but have not yet realised. Things may kick off when they do, reports Seb Wheeler. Meanwhile lecturers at Goldsmiths, who drew criticism from Downing Street two weeks ago for backing the student demonstrators who occupied Conservative Headquarters at Millbank, rallied in support of today’s action.
The protesters are on the move to Westminster at speed, reports Germaine Arnold.
Police are amassing in Trafalgar Square, and they are being booed by the protesters. Neil Cafferky, a member of the Socialist party, said: “Young peoples’ futures are being sacrificed. We refuse to pay the debt saddled on us by bankers.” Sarah Creagh of the Socialist Worker, said: “This is a full-scale attack on education policy. It needs to change for the health of society.”
Crowds of protesters have descended on Trafalgar Square, our reporter estimates the number at 2,000 and growing. Students are swarming Nelson’s Column. Mrs Kijac, 56, said: “It’s a disgrace. It’s stopping the country having a future.”
Students are making their way from Goldsmiths to central London via train. Freida Sweeney-Lynch, a prospective student, said: “It will make many people feel like they can’t go to university.” Although banned from the City of Westminster after his arrest for storming the Millbank Tower last week, James Haywood accompanied students as far as London Bridge. “Good luck guys, power to the people!” he said, as he waved goodbye.
Seb Wheeler reports from the station: “A police forward intelligence team has arrived, keeping an eye out for potential troublemakers and ringleaders.” Police said that their main priority was ensuring there was no damage to property on the way.
A cautious police presence is building up outside Goldsmiths, and accompanying students as they set off for the protest in central London. The mood is jovial. Around 45 students from Haberdashers’, a New Cross secondary school, are in attendance with persmission from their parents. They had allegedly been threatened with expulsion if they attended in their school uniforms. An official statement from the school said: “Absence for anything other than illness is unauthorised. We do not condone young people being advised to walk out of school and so being deprived of their education.”
Around 200 students have assembled at Goldsmiths College in Lewisham. James Haywood, Communications and Campaigns officer for Goldsmiths Student Union, is on the megaphone: “If you want to do some direct action, go ahead. No one is going to stop you.” Students are being told that people will be on hand to offer legal advice. Mr Haywood also confirmed that the protest is to be largely peaceful and non-violent, with a fun carnival atmosphere.
Reporting by Sam Foster, Seb Wheeler, Germaine Arnold, Charlie Cooper, and Chris Stevenson.