Thousands of students have taken to the streets of London once again to protest the rising tuition fees and cuts to the education system.
Around 4,000 officers were deployed to control the Wednesday’s demonstration.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that UK Metropolitan Police used scare tactics against members of the British public to prevent them from joining the student protest in central London.
British police sent letters to some 450 people, warning them of the consequences of taking part in rally.
Press TV has interviewed Chris Bambery, a political analyst in London, to discuss issue further.
Press TV: At least 10,000 protesters came to the streets to voice their opposition to the austerity cuts and growing tuition fees. A massive number of police officers, about 4000 of them, were also deployed. Several tents in Trafalgar Square were removed and a number of people were arrested and there are reports that one of the protesters sustained injuries to the head. Overall, how do you analyze police behavior?
Bambery: I think the police were deliberately trying to intimidate people from taking part in yesterday’s demonstration. As you said, they sent out some 450 letters to the people have been arrested, not charged necessarily, in protests against cuts and austerity over the last year. And we have seen something else more sinister than just simply sending out letters. In previous demonstrations people who had been arrested in these past protests have actually been taken into custody and held until the protest is over, this is a form of internment without trial which has taken place in Britain.
In yesterday’s protest, we had these warnings; a friend of mine whose daughter is at Oxford University told her tutor at Oxford University that she intended to go in the protests. He said she would not be allowed, she went to the protest and I don’t see how a tutor at a university can stop you from going [to] it (protest), [clearly it is a form of the intimidation] and then the stories of plastic bullets would be used, permissions have been granted to the police to use plastic bullets, again attempts to scare it off.
Yesterday we saw unprecedented numbers of police on the streets of London and I think this is tribute to the scare which the student protests last autumn gave the coalition government in Britain, the tensions they created within the coalition government and an attempt by that government in coherence with the police to make sure there was no return to that sort of scale of protests we saw last year; they were shaken by those protests, it is to the credit of students yesterday and other supporters that they came out in the streets in the face of such intimidating tactics.
Why people who tried to set up a nonviolent camp in the Trafalgar Square is still being detained is beyond me. The Occupy London movement we have seen at St. Paul’s Cathedral has not involved in one incident of violence and yet the people who attempted to set that the camp up at the Trafalgar Square yesterday were moved on after an hour; the police dispersed them and we gather some people are still in custody as a result. Why? It is that completely beyond me.
Press TV: There are reports that ahead of the march, police had contacted students who had been arrested in last year’s protest warning and threatening them not to take part in Wednesday’s march. Police were also allowed to use rubber bullets. Some say this was part of scare-mongering tactics. Why did they resort to such a tactic?
Bambery: Well, of course under British law you are innocent until approved guilty. So if people who have not yet been brought to trial or have not been found guilty of offenses for taking part in these protests were sent these letters, I would always thought there is an issue there and it would be up to legal experts to investigate that.
Unfortunately, we know that plastic bullets –which have not been used on the British main land, but have been used to lethal effect in Northern Ireland– the plastic bullets can be used. They were used in 1981 during the riots under the Thatcher government, they were not actually used but they were issued to the police and now we have … riots and social unrest in August, we know that the police can use these weapons if they feel it is the case.
I feel, [To answer your question about] what is happening in Britain today, because the right to protest is something which was won by ordinary people in this country, it was not something given by the government, it had to be taken from the government by people who were prepared to fight a war, the right to freedom of speech was won and yet what I see here is a curtailment of the right to demonstrate, and it is a curtailment of the right to freedom of speech.
With the police yesterday acting as if they were the people who would tell the protesters who could or could not do as they were protesting the students’ fees, for instance, they blocked off whole areas of financial center of London, denying access, we have already seen this when the Occupy London movement were prevented from setting up camps in Paternoster Square inside London Stocks Exchange, people’s freedom of movement is being curtailed and we are seeing people’s right of protest being curtailed.
This is a movement that have to be resisted, we have to fight to maintain the right to freedom of speech, but we should also be aware this is a tribute, as I said, to the fact that this government is very nervous the protests we are seeing and yesterday in London there were three strands coming together: the students ,the biggest protests; the Occupy London protest, which is continuing, and we also saw construction workers and electricians who [were] out demonstrating together and the government is nervous that a coalition of the sort that we are seeing with Occupy Wall Street movement in America is emerging in Britain today and if that coalition does come through, I think the government is right to be nervous because it has the power to break this coalition in Britain.