Video: Student protest turns violent in London

  1. Transcript of: Student protest turns violent in London

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: While in London , students took to the streets there to protest, what else, government proposals for deep cuts to education, big tuition increases. And the protest turned violent. Thousands descended on conservative party headquarters, smashing windows, throwing objects from the roof. Police were clearly outnumbered early on. Eight people, including several police officers, were among

msnbc.com news services
updated 11/10/2010 3:04:40 PM ET 2010-11-10T20:04:40

Tens of thousands of students marched noisily through London on Wednesday against plans to triple university tuition fees, and some tried to occupy the headquarters of the governing Conservative Party, in the largest street protest yet against the government's sweeping austerity measures.

Organizers said 50,000 students, lecturers and supporters were demonstrating against plans to raise the cost of studying at a university to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) a year — three times the current rate.

    1. Castaway's parents thought they would never see him again

      The father of Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga said he was told his long-lost son vanished on a fishing trip but he didn’t have the heart to break the news to his ailing wife.

    2. Scotland legalizes same-sex marriage
    3. Weapons deal strengthened Assad: US intel chief
    4. Outcry over the fate of Sochi's stray dogs
    5. Olympic construction leaves Sochi residents in the cold

Violence flared as a handful of people smashed windows in a high-rise building that houses Conservative headquarters. Others lit a bonfire of placards outside the building, just a short distance from Parliament.

Office workers were evacuated as several dozen protesters managed to get into the lobby, chanting "Tories Out," while outside police faced off against a crowd that occasionally hurled food, soda cans and placards.

"We are destroying the building just like they are destroying our chances of affording higher education," said Corin Parkin, 20, a student at London's City University.

The angry scenes took police by surprise and it was several hours before reinforcements brought the area under control.

Police arrested at least 32 people and said 14 people were injured, including seven officers. Some rooftop protesters hurled placards and other small objects onto the police below them.

Organizers condemned the violence. Sally Hunt, general secretary of faculty group the University and College Union, said "the actions of a minority, out of 50,000 people, is regrettable."

Get up-to-the-minute news on the protests at breakingnews.com

Elsewhere, protesters were peaceful but determined.

"I am here because it is important that students stand up and shout about what is going on," said Anna Tennant-Siren, a student at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, said: "Politicians don't seem to care. They should be taking money from people who earn seven-figure salaries, not from students who don't have any money."

  1. Only on NBCNews.com
    1. OWN via Getty Images
      From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
    2. pool via Reuters file
      US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
    3. China: One-child policy is here to stay
    4. NRA: Practice Range
      New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
    5. 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
    6. AFP - Getty Images
      China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
    7. AFP - Getty Images
      French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali

Frances O'Grady, of the Trades Union Congress, said the hike would make colleges "no-go zones for young people from ordinary backgrounds ... This is about turning colleges and universities from learning institutions into finishing schools for the rich."

"My parents are both public sector workers. My dad will lose his pension next year and my mum will lose her job and this will just put them in bankruptcy," added protestor Matthew Kell, 22, from Bristol University in southwest England.

Other students on the march said they were demonstrating on behalf of their younger siblings, who will be liable for the higher fees when they kick in from 2012.

"My sister is 15, I doubt she will go away to university because it is so expensive," said Catrina Miles, 21, from Sheffield University, northern England.

Britain's Liberal Democrats, who are part of the coalition government with the Conservatives, pledged during the country's election campaign to abolish fees.

Protest leaders said they would attempt to use recall powers to oust lawmakers who break campaign promises on the issue.

The National Union of Students said it would try to recall legislators from the party who vote in favor on the hike.

  1. Most popular

"We will not tolerate the previous generation passing on its debts to the next, nor will we pick up the bill to access a college and university education that was funded for them," said union president Aaron Porter.

While British tuition fees are modest compared to those at some U.S. colleges, British universities are public institutions. Opponents of the tuition increase have pointed out that Prime Minister David Cameron and other members of the government attended elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge at a time when university education was free.

The previous Labour government of Prime Minister Tony Blair introduced the first fees for students soon after it was elected in 1997. Scotland abolished tuition fees in 2000, and in the rest of Britain the cost is capped at about 3,000 pounds ($4,800) a year.

Prime Minister David Cameron's government plans to triple that and cut funding to universities as it strives to slash $128 billion from public expenditure over the next four years.

Still, Britain has so far seen only muted anti-austerity protests compared to those that have rocked other European countries such as France and Greece.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Tempers flare over tuition hikes in London

loading photos...
  1. Police officers hold back demonstrators trying to gain entry to 30 Millbank, the headquarters of Britain's Conservative Party, during a protest in central London on Wednesday, November 10. University students forced their way into the headquarters of British Prime Minister David Cameron's party on Wednesday during a chaotic protest against the government's plans to triple tuition fees. (Carl Court / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Demonstrators enter 30 Millbank, the headquarters of Britain's Conservative Party, through broken windows, during a student protest march, in central London on Wednesday. (Carl Court / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Demonstrators clash with police on Wednesday, Nov. 10, outside the headquarters of Britain's ruling Conservative Party in London. Hundreds of people broke away from a student street march protesting against the government's plans to triple tuition fees. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Police struggle with students outside the Conservative Party Headquarters during a demonstration against raising of cap on student tuition fees, in London, Britain, on Wednesday. (Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protesters try to break a window Wednesday inside the lobby of the building housing the Conservative Party headquarters. (Facundo Arrizabalaga / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Demonstrators burn protest banners Wednesday outside the highrise housing the Conservative Party headquarters. (Sang Tan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Demonstrators break windows of the Conservative Party headquarters building during a protest in central London on Wednesday. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Riot police stand guard inside the ransacked entrance to the London office tower on Wednesday. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Police move in on protestors outside the beseiged Conservative Party headquarters on Wednesday. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Demonstrators wave a flag from the roof of the London highrise on Wednesday. Some hurled eggs and other objects at police from the roof. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Interactive: EU struggles

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments