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The Demo 2012 rally, which took place in London on Wednesday Week 7, ended in disunited scenes as the NUS President, Liam Burns, was heckled and booed at a rally in Kennington until a stage invasion forced him to leave.
Initially, the protestors – including many from Lancaster – were in high spirits as they began their march along the Victoria Embankment. According to the NUS, there were almost 10,000 in attendance.
However, as the rain began, some protestors attempted to block the route along Westminster Bridge in order to prevent the march mov- ing south of the River Thames. These protestors were soon moved along and the demonstration left the centre of London heading towards Lambeth and Kennington.
At the final destination, a rally in Kennington Park, chants against the NUS were heard – particularly questioning the route taken by the organisers and the location of the rally, which was an area far from the centre of London and as a result was less media friendly. As the rally began, chants of “NUS, shame on you, where the fuck have you brought us to” became audible.
During Burns’ speech, around 20 protestors invaded the stage; by this point, numbers in attend- ance had fallen to a few hundred. Reports suggested many protestors became disillusioned as the march proceeded through the largely residential area of Kennington in South London.
The march itself was peaceful, except for a few minor scuffles between protestors and police around Westminster.
When asked by The Guardian why the route avoided the most high-profile parts of Central London, an NUS spokesperson said: “We’ll be marching in full view of parliament across Westminster Bridge and down to a good space for a rally.”
“We wanted to create a route that meant minimum disruption for potential supporters but that allowed us to get our messages across to politicians.”
The demonstrators met near Temple tube station and proceeded along Victoria Embankment, towards Waterloo Bridge. They then briefly passed Parliament, before crossing Westminster Bridge to proceed towards the rally.
It was reported that around 150 marchers attempted to break off from the protest towards Parliament Square, but police blocked their path. There were two lines of police blocking Portcullis House, which houses MPs’ offices.