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U.K. students clash with police in London over fees

Hundreds of British students angry about planned tuition hikes clashed with riot police on the snowy streets of London as part of nationwide protests against the measure. No serious injuries were immediately reported.
British police officers clash with protesters as hundreds of students demonstrate against a rise in tuition fees at Trafalgar Square, London, on Tuesday.
British police officers clash with protesters as hundreds of students demonstrate against a rise in tuition fees at Trafalgar Square, London, on Tuesday.Sang Tan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hundreds of British students angry about planned tuition hikes clashed with riot police on the snowy streets of London as part of nationwide protests against the measure. No serious injuries were immediately reported.

Protesters pushed against lines of riot police at Trafalgar Square and some threw objects at officers, who responded with batons.

Thousands of young demonstrators marched through university campuses across Britain and attempted to occupy local council offices. Protests were mostly peaceful, although there was some scattered violence.

British police said they made 153 arrests during the student protest in central London.

Students are furious over the coalition government's decision to allow schools to charge up to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) per year in a bid to reduce the burden on Britain's debt-laden public sector. British students currently pay up to 3,000 pounds ($4,675).

Earlier this month, activists tried to ransack the governing Conservative Party's headquarters in London in a dramatic protest, touching off a wave of demonstrations and sit-ins.

"We need to keep up this momentum because eventually we'll get through to them and we can start negotiations," said Shayan Moghedam, 17, from Woodhouse College in north London. "This is not something that can just be ignored and the fact that students keep coming out week after week proves that."

Crowds were smaller than last week's nationwide protests and the first mass student demonstration held in London on Nov. 10. As evening fell Tuesday, protesters jumped up and down in the freezing cold in Trafalgar Square, where Nelson's Column had been defaced with graffiti.

Elsewhere, thousands of students from the southwest English city of Bristol's two universities marched on the city's shopping district. The demonstration was largely peacefully, although at one point protesters lit flares and pelted police with ketchup and mustard.

In the northern city of Sheffield, police guarding the constituency office of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg shrugged off snowballs as they faced off against about 200 protesters.

Clegg — the leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats — has come under particularly stinging criticism over the proposed tuition hike. His party, which once enjoyed strong student support, had pledged to oppose any such move — only to renege on the promise once it joined the Conservative Party to form a coalition government.

"Nick Clegg is a snake," said Grace Charlesworth, 17, also from Woodhouse College. "He said our educations didn't depend on the money in our parents' pockets but that is exactly what it will become. He is a lying snake who couldn't care less about our education."

Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday students have "a responsibility to know the full facts about what they are objecting to."

"This is a solution that is fair on the taxpayer in a time of financial anxiety," he said in a statement. "It's fair on the student, who will get better teaching and it's fair on the graduate, who will pay when they can afford it."

Back on the frozen streets of the British capital, students weren't buying it.

"I honestly just feel cheated by the entire system," said Victoria Rabin, 18, of west London. "I don't know what the right thing to do is, but I want my voice to be heard. There has to be some sort of middle ground."