Students and unions stage protests over fees and cuts

media captionAnger on the streets of London over student fees and public spending cuts

Protests have been held in London and Manchester against higher tuition fees and public spending cuts.

Thousands attended a rally in Manchester organised by students and trade unions, accusing the government of "betraying" young people.

There were 16 arrests after disturbances when a group broke away from the main body of protesters.

In central London, thousands of students staged a noisy protest march through Whitehall and Westminster.

The event in London was more peaceful than recent tuition fee marches - with some of the protesters afterwards heading to join demonstrations outside the Egyptian embassy.

But police said they detained six people during the march in the capital - with groups of protesters "still roaming around the West End" in the late afternoon.

The march through Manchester brought together protests against higher tuition fees with wider trade union opposition to spending cuts and job losses.

Assistant Chief Constable Neil Wain of Greater Manchester Police said both the march and the rally at Platt Fields Park were "very good natured, very convivial".

He said about 150 individuals broke away from the rally, which was not done with the consent of the organisers.

"It is clear this group were intent on getting into the city centre to incite violence and cause damage to people living and working in our city centre," he said

"We have intelligence to suggest a number were armed with chef's knives and one of those arrested was found with a number of razor blades.

"In total, we made 16 arrests and have had reports that two officers suffered minor injuries."


The general secretary of the UCU lecturers' union, Sally Hunt, addressing the rally in Manchester, accused the government of being at "war with young people".

"It is betraying an entire generation," she said.

The lecturers' leader attacked the government for raising tuition fees in England to a new upper limit of £9,000 per year and for scrapping education maintenance allowances for college students.

Emma Bates, aged 17, from Greenhead College in Huddersfield, explained why she was taking part in the protest.

"We are not going to take all these government cuts lying down. The only way of doing that is by protesting."

There have also been divisions within the protest groups - and NUS president Aaron Porter was challenged by demonstrators wanting a more militant leadership.

Universities Minister David Willetts said the government's plans for higher education would provide "more financial support for poorer students".

"Our student and university finance reforms are fairer than the present system and affordable for the nation," he said.

In London, with banners such as "Still angry, still here," protesters sent the message that the campaign against higher fees and university spending cuts had not disappeared.

They chanted slogans against the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders.

Social networking

Saturday's rallies have been the latest in a series of demonstrations and occupations by students.

image captionFlares were lit near Downing Street - but the march was more peaceful than earlier protests

On the day MPs voted to raise fees, there were angry scenes on the streets of London as thousands of students marched through the capital.

But this latest protest in London has passed without major clashes.

There were flashpoints along the route - including the Millbank building which had been attacked on an earlier protest - but there were no large-scale confrontations.

Protesters taking part in the protest in London have been using technology to avoid being held in a police "kettle" - with the launch of a mobile phone application designed to identify blocked routes.

As with previous demonstrations, protesters have been using social networking websites and Twitter to organise and share information during the event.

The police have also provided information on the protest through Twitter.

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