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Student protests return to the streets of London

By Ian Dunt

Relations between the National Union of Students (NUS) and its members hit rock bottom today, after marchers invaded its stage during a speech by its leader.

Union president Liam Byrne was trying to make his speech at the end of the march when a group of about 100 young people booed him and rushed the stage.

The union president was forced to deliver the rest of his speech from the crowd using a loudspeaker.

The stage invasion came at the end of a frustrating day for protesters, after heavy winds and rain dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd and led to a disappointing turnout.

But many demonstrators were angry at the union for agreeing a route with the police which avoided parliament and led them to Kennington Park for a final rally.

The low-key route was organised jointly by NUS and Metropolitan police. The student union has worked closely with Scotland Yard to ensure a peaceful protest after the violence of two years ago.

Activists complained throughout the march about the inadequacies of the route, which meant there was a distinct lack of onlookers for the demonstration.

The passing demonstration could barely be heard in parliament.

At several points groups of students tried to break away to march nearer parliament but they were stopped by police.

An attempted sit-down protest on Westminster Bridge also did not last long.

When Byrne got to the stage to deliver his speech a crowd at the front started chanting: "NUS, shame on you, where the f*** have you brought us to?"

Boos against the NUS president continued while he made a speech calling for the student union to stop infighting and concentrate its fire on the government, but eventually the group stormed the stage.

Trust between the union and students has been at a low ebb since its former president condemned some of those students involved in fighting with the police two years ago.

During one march near parliament it appeared to have become an afterthought, after an official rally was dwarfed by non-official action on Whitehall.

Today's march took place under a Met-imposed section 12 order, which allowed authorities to block off areas of the city "to prevent serious public disorder".