FIVE thousand demonstrators are estimated to have taken part in the boisterous but peaceful protest on day two outside the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference in Sheffield, writes Ben Spencer.
It was noisy, with angry chants and there were several small scuffles between protesters and police. But just one arrest all day.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch digital reporter Nik Brear’s video report.
Trade unionists, students and community groups made up the majority of the protesters who marched from Devonshire Green to Barker’s Pool.
A heavy police presence meant there was little violence in the main demonstration, although one man in his 20s was arrested for public order offences after he set off a flare.
While a large anti-cuts rally took place near the main conference venue at City Hall, a small break-away group tried to raid Topshop on Fargate and NatWest on the High Street.
Police officers formed a ring around the group of about a dozen youths, and several scuffles broke out between officers and demonstrators in front of Marks and Spencer.
South Yorkshire Police unfurled giant barriers on Fargate and Surrey Street in the afternoon, and blocked access between Barker’s Pool and Division Street.
Sheffield Commander Chief Superintendent Simon Torr said: “The force can’t take a chance on this event. We have been planning for this event for the past three to four months and we are pleased to be playing a part in hosting a major political conference in the county, to showcase Sheffield and prove what we can achieve together with our city centre partners.”
Several shops closed early as news of the small disturbances spread.
Meanwhile Nick Clegg faced a bumpy ride inside the conference as delegates took advantage of a question and answer session to push their leader on tuition fees, NHS reforms and the coalition partnership.
But he received strong applause after a fierce defence of his decision to go into partnership with the Conservatives.
Earlier in the day Liberal Democrat activists overwhelmingly passed a motion criticising proposed NHS reforms Mr Clegg has backed.
Speaker after speaker called for a rethink of a policy that would put GPs in control of commissioning services.
Former Cabinet minister Baroness Shirley Williams branded the changes “lousy”, while backbencher Andrew George insisted the party should not be “the architects of the NHS’s demise”.
Mr Clegg told the conference he supported a policy that said “yes to reform, but no to privatisation.”
The conference continues tomorrow morning.