Violent clashes marred the largest student demonstration for a generation as 50,000 protesters, including 500 from Liverpool, descended on London to demonstrate against the university tuition fees rise.
Students and lecturers from across the country travelled to Whitehall as part of ‘Demo lition’, a protest organised by the National Union of Students (NUS) intended to publicise students' anger over the 40% cuts into university funding, in addition to last week’s announcement that fees may rise as high as £9,000.
The protest descended into chaos as students breached the headquarters of the Conservative party at Millbank Tower, within which windows were smashed as a large group accessed the building’s roof.
Outside, thousands surged towards a police blockade as missiles were thrown and a number of fires were lit using cardboard placards.
The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that 32 arrests were made as a result of the protests and that 14 people were injured, including seven police officers.
The day began relatively peacefully, with students waving
flags and banners berating the coalition Government’s
changes in the education sector and argued that Lib Dem
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had lied to the student
population, after pledging to oppose a rise in tuition fees
ahead of last May’s General Election.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson
has responded to accusations that the force were not
prepared for a demonstration of this size, admitting that the
Met could have anticipated the level of violence “better”,
adding: "It is not acceptable. It's an embarrassment for
London and for us."
The NUS have distanced themselves from the scenes at
Millbank Tower, with President Aaron Porter describing the
behaviour of the “rogue protesters” as “despicable,”
undermining the message of the otherwise peaceful protests.
Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger used her Twitter account to comment on the protests. She tweeted: "The sounds of students and lecturers chanting can be heard throughout the parliamentary estate. Too loud for the Lib Dems to ignore."
Berger expressed her disappointment over the clashes at Millbank in another tweet: "V disappointing that a small minority are spoiling the democratic right of the majority to protest peacefully."
LSU President Lily Rumsey also used Twitter during the day and confirmed that the group from Liverpool had avoided the violent protests. She tweeted: "[The protest] went fantastically. All LJMU students got home safe and sound on the bus. It's a shame that a few ruined it for all but Liverpool Students' Union only took part in peaceful protest."
Words by Jonathan Birchall, Website Editor Picture special by Josh Parry
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