British students and schoolchildren on Tuesday took to the streets despite cold temperatures and snow in marches and rallies across the country to protest against the coalition government's education policies.
In London, up to 3,000 students and schoolchildren braved the cold and snow falls to rally in Trafalgar Square. Xinhua reporters saw the protest march begin at least 15 minutes early and without any of the half dozen or more speeches from protest leaders, and supporting lawmakers (members of parliament).
A crowd of 2,000 began to walk down Whitehall, catching police by surprise. A hundred or so police officers quickly entered Whitehall from side streets where their vans were parked and formed a line across the 30-meter wide street.
As the line formed, protesters got to within 5 meters of it and then turned and ran away. The protest then broke up, with protesters in small and large groups roaming across the government district, into the shopping district, and even towards the financial district in the City.
London's police force, the Metropolitan Police, said in a statement: "The Met police worked with organizers in advance to agree a suitable route from Trafalgar Square down to Parliament Square for a peaceful protest.
"However, today's march set off at an earlier time than agreed. This meant that the march began without a police escort. As a result, a line of police officers formed a cordon across Whitehall. This line of police officers intended to steer the march to one side of the road and the agreed route. There was never any intention to contain the protesters."
Police said the march had continued "peacefully" but caused some disruption after it broke up into small groups.
The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, one of the campaign groups organizing the protest, complained that protesters in London Tuesday were again being confined to a small area and condemned the police for their tactics.
In other major cities, protest also took place, with marches and rallies in Liverpool, Cambridge, Sheffield, Newcastle, Leeds, the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, and Manchester among others.
The previous two days of protests earlier this month caught police, media, government, and society by surprise as tens of thousands of students, joined by schoolchildren, marched, rallied, and staged occupations in their universities and schools up and down Britain.
Such widespread student protests have become uncommon, but not unknown, over the past 20 years, and the involvement of schoolchildren, many under 16 years of age, is a new characteristic.
The first day of protests, on November 10, saw 50,000 students rally in London in a largely peaceful demonstration against government plans to increase tuition fees for university students. But police were caught by surprise when a small group broke away from the demonstration and broke into the headquarters of the Conservative party, the senior party in the coalition government.