Thousands of students marched through the city's crowded banking district in the latest display of anger against the UK government's austerity measures. Police responded with a massive presence to prevent any repeat of the violence and rioting that has taken place in the city over the last year.
Police, some with riot gear, were transported to the scene by vans fitted with steel grills over their windshields. Officers set up metal and sandbag barricades at the entrance of the London Stock Exchange and around Holborn Viaduct, an avenue protesters are expected to pass near. Some shops and banks along the viaduct had boarded up their windows in advance.
Although some 10,000 people from across Britain were expected to join the demonstration against the Conservative-led coalition government's education policies—especially higher tuition fees—the actual number appears to have been less than that.
Similar protests by students last year led to clashes with police, assaults on public buildings and almost 400 arrests.
The students are separate from the Occupy London Stock Exchangeprotesters encamped at St. Paul's Cathedral nearby, though they are to be joined by them when they reach the area.
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4:27 PM - Slow Dispersal
The vast majority of the protesters are now leaving the area peacefully, though some can be overheard saying they plan to visit the Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters at St. Paul's Cathedral.
4:12 PM - Some Departures
Though protesters are now tightly ringed on all sides by phalanxes of police officers, those who want to leave are being allowed to do so. More strident students remain inside the police "kettle" at London Wall, however. About 1,500 or 2,000 students remain.
Though there have been a few skirmishes and scuffles along the way, the overall atmosphere of the march and protest has been peaceful. Reports are indicating that London's Metropolitan Police have made 26 arrests.
3:58 PM - 'Kettled'
The protest area is now effectively "kettled"—a British term that means the protesters are totally contained by police— with officers, some of them mounted on horseback, sealing off every exit from the area.
Police stand two lines deep at all points, riot officers in front, officers in uniform behind.
3:46 PM - London Wall
The march has now effectively come to a close as the protesters settle into their pre-planned rallying point, London Wall. Police and protesters for the most part appear to mingle peacefully. No speeches or the like yet. Several police in the area mill about with leashed dogs.
3:43 PM - Hoodies Up
Near the corner of Montague Street and Little Britain, not far from where the bulk of the protesters have begun to reach their final rallying point, some protesters are beginning to appear with hoodies up and faces covered.
3:33 PM - King Edward and House Music
Protesters continue north toward their final rallying point, the London Wall. The proceed up King Edward Street. A mobile sound system they have brought along is playing very heavy dub house music at full volume now.
3:30 PM - Access to St. Paul's Blocked
Police have ensured that the stream of protesters heads north, toward London Wall, rather than south, toward St. Paul's, by blocking off the latter route. The Occupy London Stock Exchange encampment is around St. Paul's.
3:15 PM - Moving Blockade
Police are now walking briskly backward while in front of the protesters, as a sort of brake on the protester's pace. Students continue to move ahead, undaunted. Barricades block the students from the sidewalks on both sides of High Holborn.
London has deployed about 4,000 police into the city's financial district and, in a very rare move, equipped them with plastic bullets. Police helicopters cut through the air overhead.
3:11 PM - Riot Gear Comes Out
As protesters reach High Holborn, police begin to equip themselves in riot gear until they're all in helmets. Finally they're all fully "kitted up." The atmosphere is still calm; the police presence is massive, appearing much greater than a typical protest deployment.
3:00 PM - Protesters Recommence, Taunt Police
As police move out of the way and allow protesters by on Fleet Street, some students begin to chant at police, "Your job's next!"
2:43 PM - Protesters Come to Halt on Fleet Street
Four lines of police have blocked off Fleet Street for reasons that are not immediately clear. The protesters are no longer proceeding. Mounted police have converged on the area, and police have constructed a barricade across Fleet Street. The student protesters had appeared to be about to converge with another group of protesters from Southwark, in South London, at the bottom of Ludgate Hill.
2:33 PM - Corner of the Strand and Fetter Lane
Protesters arrive along the Strand, an avenue parallel to and north of the River Thames. Protest peaceful so far, but overheard a police officer say to one of his colleagues, "Any trouble, and they get this," pointing down to his left elbow while thrusting it forward.
2:20 PM - Large Police Presence on Fleet Street
Police presence is absolutely huge on Fleet Street, the former center of the London newspaper industry that's near the financial district.
A secondary protest group appears to be joining from the area of Southwark, South London, to join the main group.
2:17 PM - Protesters Reach the Strand
Protesters are still about 2 1/2 miles short of their final destination, moving with deliberate slowness
1:46 PM - Proposed Route and Schedule
All times are Greenwich Mean Time. The students have begun their march but are running behind schedule.
12:00 PM: Marchers meet at Malet Street, near Birkbeck and University of London Union.
12:30 PM: March starts along Gower Street, Bloomsbury Street, Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road.
1:00 PM: Trafalgar Square and Strand.
1:30 PM: Fleet Street, Fetter Lane, New Fetter Lane.
2:00 PM: St Paul's (to be joined by Occupy London protesters), Edward Street, Montague Street, and then London Wall.
3:30 PM: Rally at Moorgate Junction adjacent to London Metropolitan University
1:32 PM - Police Give Warning to Protesters
The Met police have just informed the protestors that they must stick to their proposed route and will be able to congregate only at the route's proposed rallying area at London Wall in the City of London for no more than a couple of hours.
1:21 PM - Holborn Viaduct, Outside London Stock Exchange
Dozens of police officers from the London Metropolitan Police have ringed the entrance of the London Stock Exchange with steel barricades and stand at the ready on both sides. Officers have blocked the doors of the exchange themselves by pulling bringing police vans bumper to bumper.
Student protesters began their 3 1/2-mile march from London's Covent Garden area minutes ago, proceeding with placards toward the financial district.