More than 400 demonstrators brought traffic to a standstill as they staged a free education protest today.

After marching to Brighton’s Churchill Square Shopping Centre, around 40 stormed the building and headed to the clothing giant Topshop.

Christmas shoppers looked on as the activists, some with their faces covered, were forced back by police and security guards who were blocking the entrance.

Shop staff closed the doors to prevent entry – as did other stores including Vodafone.

The march, which was primarily focused on free university education, began at The Level at 2pm with speeches from among others Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion.

The 300 to 400 protesters then made their way along the Old Steine and up Edward Street to stage a protest outside Brighton Magistrates Court.

The Argus:

They then marched back across the Old Steine before stopping outside Barclays Bank and other shops, They then headed to Churchill Square.

Police officers on motorbikes and on foot tracked them as they went but were helpless in stopping them blocking the roads.

Outside Churchill Square there were further speeches before a smaller group made their way to Starbucks on the other side of Western Road.

Police officers and security guards stood between them and the American coffee chain as the protesters chanted “Starbucks – pay your taxes.”

The Argus:

With police and security seemingly blocking their entry to Churchill Square, a group, with drums, placards and banners made their way through H&M before getting into the centre using an internal door.

Topshop/Topman, which has come in for criticism in recent years for its tax arrangements, was their target – with activists being pushed away from the entrance by police and centre security.

Next, the protest moved to Brighton Town Hall where activists lit a red flare and chanted – much to the bemusement of the wedding party inside.

Michael Segalov, protester and University of Sussex Student Union Communications Officer, told The Argus there is a real “strength of feeling” in the run up to next year’s General Election.

He said: “About two weeks ago the free education demo in London saw 10,000 saw students marching. Following that it was decided there would be action across the country.

“This week we have seen protests on campuses in Warwick, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester and this is a follow up to those.”

He added: “The reason it is coming to head now is because there has been no real alternative put forward for the future of our education funding.

“We are being told we can have a say about the future of education at the election. But today shows people don’t believe going to the ballot box in a few months time is the only thing they can be doing and that is a really important narrative – voting isn’t the only thing you can do.”

He added: “It has been a really good turnout. It’s a weekend and nearly Christmas and a lot of students aren’t about. But there were a good 500 people here at the peak of the day.”

There are not believed to have been any arrests.