Riot vans block London jewellery quarter as protesters’ tempers flare.
London’s famous Hatton Garden jewellery quarter was closed to traffic for several hours today as thousands of students marched past protesting against hikes in tuition fees.
The protest was halted just yards from Holborn Circus, the entrance to Hatton Garden, as police briefly came under attack by a knot of students who were being funnelled through the narrow Fetter Lane.
Wooden battens and bottles were thrown at police as tempers flared at the head of the march.
The majority of jewellers shuttered their stores as the protest passed, despite a huge police presence blocking Hatton Garden with riot vans and horse-mounted officers.
Storekeepers speaking to Professional Jeweller reported that they had lost business on the day, and said there had been a surreal atmosphere as police closed the road and several helicopters hovered overhead for two hours.
Policemen posted outside the jewellery stores said they had been on the street since 10am that morning and would remain in place until well after the protest passed. They said that they had been told by colleagues about skirmishes, but no major violence or damage to shops as the crowd made its way from central London to The City.
By 4pm, the main march had passed the Hatton Garden area on its way to St Paul’s Cathedral, the site of the Occupy London camp, and a final rally point at Metropolitan University.
Over 4000 police were deployed to ensure there were no repeats of the riots that tore across London in the summer, or the violence that broke out at last year’s student demonstration. They were authorised to use rubber bullets if required.
Initial estimates said that only 2000 students took part.