Sebastian Payne

Live-blogging the protests

Live-blogging the protests
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1540: Heading back to Spectator HQ but it's blocked off. They appear to be kettles in parliament square. The horses appear to be keeping the crowd back. Fence is being thrown around again.

1530:
Milbank is full of police vans, they have to put them somewhere. Police are turning away people from Parliament Square. Police are using riot-proof cameras for evidence.

1455:
The Met are shouting and trying to get everyone back on the planned route, but the crowd are beyond caring. A bystander pointed out Parliament Square is being used (more likely destroyed) for the first time in months.

1445: A view from a parliamentary researcher: "Life goes on inside the Palace of Westminster. We wouldn't know what is going on outside apart from noise of helicopter and a few extra policeman around, the Westminster bubble at work! Spotted Nick Robinson striding into Portcullis House and Charles Kennedy looking bedraggled."

1440: The barriers are being crowd surfed. The riot shields are up outside Parliament but the police are standing strong. The square turning into one mass organism, throbbing not moving.

1425:
Some movement from the horses but nothing major. Some fireworks have gone off, it's certainly not a party atmosphere. Traffic is gridlocked everywhere nearby, avoid Westminster if you are in London, if you can even get in.

1410: The centre barricades have been stormed but they have not reached anywhere near Parliament. This is not going to have a happy ending. I'm hanging back on this one!

1405: The mood towards the crowd is quite ugly, and the amount of police restrictions is winding people up. The BBC is reporting minor scuffles, but there doesn't appear to be any fighting on the front line.

1355: The police horses waiting for action. Still much shouting coming through but no breaks in the line.

1350: Smoke flair being thrown around and the crowds are getting louder and louder. They sound angry, but no storming through the line yet.

1345: Police telling everyone to keep moving and no stopping. If you cross the line, that's it, no going back.

1340: Westminster tube is shut down. Here they come! There's goggle-clad police horses in Smiths Square. The crowd sounds huge.

1330: A parliamentary insider observes: "From my office, I can see not a thin red line but a high visibility line stretching from Black Rod's Garden Entrance to the Carriage Gates. Old Palace Yard is filled with police vans, several looking as though pre positioned to transport arrestees away. Others are being used as temporary road blocks. Cowley Street, home of Lib Dems HQ, has been sealed off since last night. The Duke of Wellington planned the Palace so it could never be surrounded by the mob."

1325: Met Policeman just said a smaller group has broken away and is heading along Embankment. He said they will be filtered to join the main group going anti clockwise around Parliament Square and doing their thing. Police now copious in number.

1315: The crowd leaving Trafalgar, cheering as they go. Indeterminate size, but they are off. Number of police everywhere is staggering.

1300: The protesters are due to leave for the march now. A by-stander just commented to me: "if they didn't protest so much, the money saved on policing could go into higher education."

12:40: Whitehall deserted. The copters are circling over Trafalgar Square, so the congregation must be beginning. An officer from the Met confirmed they are going to be allowed through Parliament Square but no where near the big building itself.

1230: Westminster Bridge and Victoria embankment now closed to traffic. Helicopters out in full flow. No sign of the crowds yet. Policeman just said "if you see or hear crowds of people, go elsewhere!" Police van blocking Parliamentary book shop, and I was hoping to do some shopping today as well...

1215: And so it begins. The police lines are being drawn across the roads - they are handing out riot shields inside the Parliamentary estate, the horses have arrived, the traffic has pretty much stopped. Eerily silent now.

1206: Ken Clarke just arrived at Parliament in his Jag. Had to manoeuvre around these sand slabs. Overheard a gang say, "we need to ask someone where these protests are. Westminster right?"

1205:
The police are piling up on Westminster Bridge:

1200: Not taking any chances at Portcullis House:

1145:
There are at least a hundred policemen around Parliament Square, many with riot helmets. The biggest presence is around the Palace itself, with a gang already appearing. The Met are not unprepared. Traffic is one way down Whitehall and moving very slowly. There are constant police motorbikes, pickup trucks and vans circling all the time.

1135: Heading through Westminster from Spectator HQ, the streets are unusually quiet on this crisp December morning. Little traffic but many barriers. There are police vans full of officers waiting for the action to kick off, if if ever does.

Coffee House has comandeered Seb Payne, an intern at The Spectator, to live-blog today's tuition fees protests from on the ground. Check back here for updates throughout the day.