Students took to the streets of London en masse on Wednesday to fight government funding cuts and a massive hike in tuition fees. But rubber bullets and police intimidation threaten to turn the demonstration into a bloody affair.
Gathering at the University of London in the center of the capital around noon, 10,000 people are expected to take part in the march against the privatization of education and other attacks on the welfare state.
Having been criticized for their mishandling of previous protests, the police announced they would be out in force. With 4,000 officers being deployed, the run-up to the march has been fraught with tension.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has authorized the firing of rubber bullets if things get out of hand. In a further move to intimidate demonstrators, police sent dozens of letters to anti-cuts activists warning them of dire consequences if they attend the march.
As marchers are later expected to meet up with Occupy London protestors camping out at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, fears are widespread that heavy-handed police tactics could turn the peaceful protest violent.
Wednesday’s march comes a year after thousands rallied against the government’s plans to reform the education system. In the ensuing chaos, a few troublemakers ransacked the Conservative Party headquarters, and hundreds were arrested as a result.