Thursday, December 16, 2010

Police mull banning all UK protests

The British police chief says he is weighing up an option to ask the Home Secretary to enforce a ban on any future protest gatherings altogether across the UK.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson referred to the level of violence in recent student protests against the rise in tuition fees, saying that he does not rule out banning all future student protests across the country, the daily Independent reported. 

Tens of thousands of student protesters from universities, colleges and schools have been marching across England in protests against the huge hikes in tuition fees, together with the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance and proposed cuts in college funding. 

Police have arrested more than 180 people in London after four protests against the government's plan to increase the fees. 

The motion was voted on and approved last Thursday in defiance of the most violent protest scenes in and around Parliament Square where the clashes between police and protesters left 12 officers and more than 40 protesters injured. 

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said banning students from marching was a power he had not ruled out using. 

"It is one of the tactics we will look at and something we will keep under review, and if we think it is the right thing to do then we will do it," said Sir Paul Stephenson. 

The head of the National Union of Students (NUS) dismissed the police chief's idea as in clear contrast to civil freedoms. 
"Peaceful protest is an integral part of our heritage and it is the responsibility of the police to help facilitate that", said the NUS president, Aaron Porter. 

Speaking about the suggestion that water cannons could be used to control crowds in the future, Sir Paul said that the force had ruled that option out three years ago but that officers were taking advice from colleagues in Northern Ireland about its efficacy in London.

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