3pm update: Large numbers of students have convened on Whitehall, where things have turned violent. The police, mindful of what happened earlier in the month, are taking a more aggressive approach, resorting to the notorious 'kettling' technique to keep protesters corralled in a small space near the Treasury, having prevented them from reaching Parliament Square.
As the kettle heats up, so tempers rise: protesters are attempting to break through the police lines, and TV pictures have shown clashes between the two sides. Earlier on, a police van parked in Whitehall was damaged by protesters. There are also reports that students have taken over the part of the University of East London. The Twitter hashtag #demo2010 is teeming with on-the-ground reports: numerous people have tweeted that they were hit by batons, while one police officer is reported to have a broken arm.
University, college and school students across London are today expected to join a wave of action against rising tuition fees and cuts in education spending.
The day of sit-ins, walk-outs, marches and rallies is organised by the Education Activist Network, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts and local student union officers who are angry at the Coalition government's higher education funding plans. The protests follow the NUS march of 50,000 students through central London on November 10, which ended with thousands surrounding, occupying and vandalising the Millbank Conservative party headquarters. The NUS is not involved in organising today's actions.
Organisers expect students across the country, including FE and school students, to walk-out of lessons between 10 am and midday. Protests planned in London include a march from ULU to Trafalgar Square beginning at 11 am; a rally at Trafalgar Square at midday; a protest at the Lib Dem headquarters in Cowley Street SW1 at 2 pm; and a rally at Downing Street at 5 pm.
The Lib Dems have come in for particularly fierce criticism from students for going back on their pre-election pledge to oppose tuition fee increases. Nick Clegg last night appealed to students planning to protest today to, "Examine our proposals before taking to the streets. Listen and look before you march and shout."
The Met police are thought be keen to demonstrate they are prepared for any violence after admitting being unready for the occupation at Millbank two weeks ago. They have put the officer who oversaw the Met's operation at the G20 protests in London in 2009 in charge today. Former Met deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick told Sky News this morning that police would “throw the kitchen sink” at the protests to make sure there is no trouble.
Londonist will have updates on the actions throughout the day.
By Neil Roberts. Image by Ren's Photography in the Londonist Flickr pool.