Thousands of Merseyside students staged a collective 'walk out' today and marched through the city in protest over the coalition Government’s cuts to higher education funding and an increase in tuition fees.

 

The demonstrators met at the Liverpool Guild of Students

on Mount Pleasant at noon to march past St George’s Hall

and into the heart of the city centre.

 

A strong police presence meant there were no reports of

significant trouble along the route, and the mass gathering

dispersed into smaller groups following a peaceful march through town for around three hours, with several sit-down protests in the street.

 

Merseyside Police reported only a "small number of isolated incidents". At least one flare was set alight and a group staged a separate demonstration outside the Tory party headquarters in Hanover Street. A brief rooftop protest was also staged at the Liverpool Guild, with some interior damage caused. 

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A Facebook group to promote the event listed more than 4,000 students who said they would be taking part, though various sources estimated the crowd to be between 2,000 and 3,000. Merseyside Police say there were no reported injuries, but one 18-year-old man was arrested after an alleged egg-throwing incident.

 

Organisers insisted that this would be a peaceful protest after fears of a repeat of the demonstration in London two weeks ago, in which thousands of protesters vandalised Conservative Party headquarters at Millbank House. The National Union of Students claimed outside agitators hijacked their cause in London.

 

Labour Councillor Nick Small addressed the protest in a speech from

Liverpool Town Hall balcony, telling the crowd: “I’m here to congratulate

your vocal support. The students of Liverpool are very important to this

city. It would be a bleak future without our universities. I salute the

people who organised this today. You can shake the debate."

 

Merseyside's Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Ward, said: "I would

like to thank all of those involved, residents, businesses and members

of the public for their patience and co-operation throughout today.

 

"It is important that people have the opportunity to protest peacefully

and my officers have worked hard today to facilitate everyone being

able to express their views in a safe environment."

 

The demonstration in Liverpool came as part of a nationwide day of

action by students, when thousands from across the country voiced

their concern over funding, as well as directly denounced Deputy Prime

Minister Nick Clegg, after he pledged to scrap tuition fees before last May’s General Election. Once again, there were violent clashes with police at the protests in London.

 

University course fees are expected to almost double from 2012; costing students at least £6,000 a year, though there is a possibility for them to rise to £9,000, a figure that some fear would cripple higher education in England. This increase is being seen as a cushion to soften the blow of a 40% decrease in Government funding for universities, as announced in last month’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

 

 

JMU Journalism reporting team: Jonathan Birchall, Sam Bisby, Beth Hockey, Max Owen, Dawid Koziol, Nicholas McGee, Adam Hicks, Chris Bradley, Lee Boyle, Ayden Feeney & Scott Partridge

 

Thousands join students' protest in city

JMU Journalism reports from Liverpool

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The march began at the Liverpool Guild of Students and became a sit-down protest at St George's Hall

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Liverpool students' protest pics

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Students discuss why they are protesting