LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters took to the streets on Saturday in a new wave of protests against government plans to hike university tuition fees and scrap education grants.
The protests in London and Manchester are the first major demonstrations since late last year when students laid siege to London’s government district and attacked a limousine carrying heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his wife.
Saturday’s protests were largely peaceful.
Holding banners marked “What Parliament does, the streets can undo” about 3,000 noisy but good-humoured protesters marched through central London to Westminster.
Ciara Squires, 18, from Portsmouth, at Queen Mary (London University) said she was marching for her 16-year-old sister:
“Education should be free. My little sister is going to lose her EMA (grant) and drop out of college, and then she might not be able to go to university,” Squires said.
“Parliament is not listening to us and most of the people in college can’t vote, so we should be out here (marching), that’s the only way we can express our opinions,” she added.
Chanting “London - Cairo, unite and fight” the march then moved on to the Egyptian embassy, where a demonstration calling for Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to step down was being held.
In Manchester, some of the biggest trade unions joined forces with students as anger about the Conservative-led coalition government’s austerity cuts boiled over into wider sectors of society.
Media reports said six people had been arrested following a minor scuffle.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), told protestors that the Conservative-led coalition’s cuts unfairly targeted young people.
“From sacking lollipop ladies and closing youth clubs, to axing college grants and trebling tuition fees, this is a government at war with our young people and therefore at war with our future,” Hunt said.
The coalition government plans to cut 2.9 billion pounds ($4.64 billion) of state support a year for universities to help tackle a budget deficit now at about 11 percent of national output following the global financial crisis.
The government says the higher student fees will be fairer than the present system, and that it will give poorer students more financial support.