Students call demo police tactics "outrageous"

LONDON (Reuters) - Leading members of student bodies denounced the police response to a protest in London against tuition fee rises as “absolutely outrageous” on Thursday.

Demonstrators face riot police during a protest, in central London November 24, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Police used a containment technique called kettling to stop the protests spreading after sporadic violence broke out in central London. They threw a cordon around the area and refused to let demonstrators out for several hours.

“The actions of the Metropolitan Police yesterday, I think were absolutely outrageous” said spokesman for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Simon Hardy.

“That we were stuck for five or six hours, not allowed to leave, intimidated by hundreds upon hundreds of riot police and treated very badly when all we were doing was exercising our democratic right to protest I think is a real scandal ...”

But the police defended their stance.

“We have a variety of tactics available to us: containment is one of them. It’s only used rarely and it’s only used in circumstances where it’s appropriate and warranted,” said a spokesman.

Earlier in the day, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson conceded that letting people out from the cordon last night was “frustratingly slow” but said the police had “got it right” on Wednesday.

“I think they did a very good job in a very difficult circumstance,” he said, adding that “the game has changed” in policing protests and he expects more disorder on the streets.

Thirty-five people were arrested following Wednesday’s protest, nine of them in connection with damage done to a police van.

Another protest is set to take place next Tuesday when the government discusses plans to almost triple tuition fees to as much as 9,000 pounds a year.

Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Steve Addison