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Cops use water cannons, stun grenades at Union Buildings

Students broke through the fence, but were pushed back by police.

Dark smoke billows from the crowd where thousands of students have gathered at the Union Buildings, calling on President Jacob Zuma to come out to address them on 23 October 2015. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

PRETORIA - As students continue to break fences at the Union Buildings, state security minister David Mahlobo has called for calm.

Students were demanding to be let inside the venue where President Jacob Zuma is meeting with university management and students.

The police have now deployed barbed wire to keep protesters away from the Union Buildings after the crowd broke through fences.

Protesters have been throwing stones at police and journalists, and officers have used water cannons and stun grenades to keep them back.

#FeesMustFall #UnionBuildings Students sitting near where they have ripped open a section of the fence . pic.twitter.com/hrZbl2UCou

#FeesMustFall Water canon now being used to disperse crowd and put out fires on union building lawns. GN

Stones have also been thrown at journalists who are situated behind the fences and students have also started burning what appears to be tyres.

#WitsMustFall fire out of control GN pic.twitter.com/8hCMfZ5BEn

#FeesMustFall #UnionBuildings Fire getting bigger . Nyala van here. Police chopper circling area..ZN pic.twitter.com/WOLYaf9OAU

Mahlobo addressed the crowd, saying talks are continuing.

He said there will be feedback.

The Fees Must Fall movement has rejected any increase in tuition fees for the 2016 academic year and says they will not budge on their demand.

WATCH: Scenes from the student protest at the Union Buildings

Talk Radio 702's Redi Thlabi says the gathering has been hijacked.

"The Fees Must Fall students have been peaceful, they've been courageous and they stood their ground. It was a group of Sascoc and ANC supporters who came here, are taking mobile toilets, they're burning them in the middle of the field, trying to intimidate everybody. And in response, the Fees Must Fall movement are saying 'no violence'.

She says she's proud of the students.

"I'm very proud of the young people, who are not being intimidated."

Dust and smoke hangs in the air after a police nyala arrived to extinguish a fire that was sparked a short while ago.

However, it doesn't seem to have been completely put out.

Sporadic loud bangs from stun grenades can also be heard, causing students to run back and forth in confusion.

A police chopper has also been circling above the venue, which is now almost filled to capacity.

Meanwhile the ANC says it commends the students for their peaceful behaviour so far.

But the party's Khusela Sangoni says they are worried about what's happening around the fence of the Union Buildings.

"We are extremely concerned by the behaviour we've been seeing of late, where a small group is trying to provoke confrontation between police and students."

#FeesMustFall Students are now heading back to where their buses are parked. #EWNChopper MS pic.twitter.com/AjVxYkowsw

TASK TEAM TO LOOK INTO ESCALATING FEES

Ahead of the president's address later today, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe says the student protests were discussed extensively during this week's Cabinet meeting.

He says a presidential task team will also be looking into the escalating fees.

The minister says it includes student representatives, university councils and the department of higher wducation.

Radebe says Cabinet believes the efforts led by the president and higher education minister Blade Nzimande will go a long way towards addressing students' concerns.

SOLIDARITY MARCHES

Solidarity marches are being held in Durban, Stellenbosch, with pickets abroad are also on the go in cities including New York and London.

The situation currently at SA High Commission in London. #FeesMustFall pic.twitter.com/fGOLJsdYgm

In London hundreds of South Africans have gathered at the High Commission in support of #FeesMustFall pic.twitter.com/UjJX8Ud93i

To keep up with the protests at the Union Buildings, follow EWN 's ' Fees Must Fall' live blog.

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