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Students hold another day of protests over tuition hikes

By Melissa Gray, CNN
A line of police officers stand guard outside the Houses of Parliament in London as students protest against cuts.
A line of police officers stand guard outside the Houses of Parliament in London as students protest against cuts.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Police make 5 arrests
  • NEW: Students are being asked to leave Trafalgar Square
  • Police say students failed to stick to the agreed plan
  • The students are upset at planned hikes in university tuition

London, England (CNN) -- Students were braving the wintry weather Tuesday to hold another day of protests against planned hikes in university tuition.

Despite sleet, brisk winds, and a light snowfall -- unusual for London this early in the season -- groups of students carrying protest signs and flags were making their way through the capital, heading in the general direction of Parliament. About 500 protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square as police encouraged them to leave the area.

Police said they arrested five people in relation to the student protest march -- two for public order offenses, one for common assault and one for obstructing police. The reason for the fifth arrest was not immediately known.

Long lines of police wearing fluorescent yellow vests and carrying helmets were at Parliament Square to block the students' path.

Police explained their presence at Parliament by saying the students had failed to stick to the plan they had agreed to with police before the protest began. They said the students started demonstrating earlier than planned, meaning the march set off without a police escort, which police said was essential because of gas main repairs on one side of the street.

As a result, police, said, they formed the cordon in front of Parliament.

British students furious over fees
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  • London

"The march continues peacefully, however, it is causing some disruption for Londoners in the West End in what are already difficult conditions due to the weather," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Similarly, at Trafalgar Square, police said students were lingering beyond the approved time slot of 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., "so we are encouraging protesters to leave Trafalgar Square enabling Londoners to get back to their normal routine."

There was tension on both sides Tuesday following the scattered violence that marked a similar day of protest last Wednesday, when students also tried to make their way to Parliament.

Police stopped them a block away and hemmed them in. Students then damaged a police van, spray painted and smashed windows at nearby government buildings, and set small fires.

Police said they made 15 arrests in London. Demonstrations also occurred in other major university centers across Britain like Leeds, Cambridge, Oxford and Glasgow.

The protesters are angry at government plans to remove the current annual cap of 3,000 pounds (about $4,700) on university tuition and allow schools to charge as much as 9,000 pounds (about $14,200).

The change is part of the government's plan to cut its massive budget deficit.

Defenders of the plan say universities will not necessarily charge the maximum they're allowed to, and the government has said students will not need to pay back the fees until they earn at least 21,000 pounds (about $32,600) a year. That threshold is currently 15,000 pounds (about $23,300) a year.