Police sent riot vans to monitor a protest of fewer than 30 people today, as students demonstrated outside the constituency office of Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes.
A 25-strong contingent from Goldsmiths college travelled to Bermondsey to stage the demonstration. Mr Hughes, who is MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, has come under fire in recent weeks for failing to state his voting intention on controversial student fees legislation despite being a senior party member.
The students, who taped notices “rescinding” their Lib-Dem vote to the side of the building, were faced with police presence within 45 minutes. They waved placards and used megaphones to demand that Mr Hughes “stand by the pledge” of voting against increased tuition fees.
Police on the scene said they were not expecting the demonstration, but had responded to a call from a member of the public “to make sure public rights of way were left unobstructed”.
The protest was organised by the Goldsmiths Students’ Union, which has also spent recent days occupying the university library in protest. Francesca Barcarino, Education and Welfare Officer for the union, said: “Numbers are thinner on the ground for this demo, especially with the library occupation going on at the same time.”
Police arrived at the scene in riot vans, and sent some officers to the roof of a nearby building to survey the area. Ms Barcarino said that students were inherently protesting for police jobs and other sectors in danger of cuts, as well as against a rise in tuition fees.
She said it was “a shame” that police felt the need to despatch such a large number of officers, when the cause was “also for them”.
Kathleen Robertson, 72, a pensioner from Bermondsey, was angered by the protest: “I haven’t paid taxes all my life for the council to have to remove graffiti and rubbish left in the street by a protest like this.”
“I never went to university, and I don’t see why people should pay for this lot to go when they cause such a nuisance,” she said.
A third year politics student who asked not to be named said that there will be a more serious protest if Mr Hughes votes in favour of raising tuition fees: “We’ll be discussing how to stage something more serious in response to that.”
The protest disbanded within 30 minutes of police arriving. No arrests were made.
ELL coverage of previous anti-cuts protests can be found here.