Protestors in Westminster were surrounded by hundreds of officers on Wednesday marking a change in police tactics.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s decision to be “much more cautious” left hundred of protestors ‘kettled’ or contained for several hours at ‘Day X’ protests on Wednesday. Schoolchildren and pregnant women were amongst the crowd who were surrounded and held until after nightfall in Whitehall.
These tactics have drawn criticism from some quarters including the Education Activist Network who have criticised the police’s “heavy handed brutality”. The number of police deployed increased from 225 at the last march to more than 800 on ‘Day X’.
The extra precautions came as Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, warned the country of a development in the strategies of student groups involved. He said: “We had dealt with student organisers before and I think we based it too much on history. If we follow an intelligence-based model that stops you doing that. Obviously you realise the game has changed.”
An inquiry conducted by the Commissioner after the last day of protests criticised a lack of police presence and control when over £1mn worth of damage was done to Millbank Tower by raging students.
The ‘kettling’ techniques employed on Wednesday are thought to be a response to such criticisms as police determination to retain control was clear.
The police have also attracted criticism from some MPs. River Online reporters spoke to Green Party leader and Euro MP, Caroline Lucas, she said: “I wanted the Home Secretary to come and make a statement as to whether or not she believed the police tactics were proportionate given that you’ve got young school kids there who’ve been there for five hours in the freezing cold and it’s just simply, I think, counter-productive.”
The EAN and other student groups have warned that this is not the end of the action and are planning follow-up campaigns on the 30th November. The National Campaign against Fees and Cuts have said: “We shall not stop until we break the government’s cuts programme or we break the government.”