British gov't condemns students' violent protests against tuition fees hike

19:40, November 11, 2010      

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British Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the violence that broke out during protests over tuition fees raising in London on Wednesday.

The prime minister said the clashes in Central London, which led to 35 arrests and 14 injuries, were "unacceptable." He also praised the "brave" officers who tried to control the crowds, but said "there weren't enough of them."

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police launched an urgent investigation into how it policed Wednesday's violent demonstration.

Police made arrests after violence broke out as fifty thousands of British students demonstrated on the streets of London at planned cuts in university funding and increases in tuition fees.

In Thursday's edition of the Independent, "Student riot marks end of coalition's era of consensus" was on the paper's front page.

"Student demonstrators brought violence to London's streets yesterday on a scale not seen since the poll tax riots of 20 years ago," the paper said.

"The ferocity of the protest ended the high hopes of a new are of consensus politics, promised by David Cameron when he took office exactly six months ago," it added.

The Guardian's front page used the words "This is just the beginning" in describing the students Wednesday demonstrations against coalition government's decision

A demonstration involving students from universities and colleges of higher education across England and Wales was called by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the University Colleges Union in protest of planned spending cuts by the new coalition government that will see funding for university teaching drastically cut.

Tuition fees, payable by students after they graduate, could rise from a current level of 3,200 pounds (about 5,100 U.S. dollars), to 9,000 pounds (about 15,400 U.S. dollars) from 2012 if government plans are carried out.

The change will allow the government to cut the amount of money it pays to universities to fund teaching as part of big cuts in government spending, which have resulted in cuts of up to 25 percent in some government departments.

The government said the cuts are necessary to tackle the near-record public sector spending deficit, about 156 billion pounds (about 251.5 billion U.S. dollars) for 2010-11.

Aaron Porter, president of the NUS, explained why students demonstrated.

"We have taken to the streets of London in unprecedented numbers on the biggest student demonstration this century to tell politicians that enough is enough. We will not tolerate the previous generation passing on its debts to the next, nor will we pick up an eye-watering bill to access a college and university education that was funded for them."

He said that students were angry at politicians' because they "broke promises," a reference to the Liberal Democrats, the minority party in the coalition government, which had campaigned in the run-up to May's general election for the abolition of tuition fees.

"This government is abdicating its responsibility to fund the education and skills provision we desperately need just as every other country is investing in its future. We cannot and will not accept that miserable vision for our future. These short-sighted and self-defeating cuts to colleges and universities must be resisted," Porter added.

Some student protesters, numbering about 200 according to onlookers, broke away from the official demonstration and rally to occupy the Conservative Party headquarters, which was on the route of the demonstration.

The protesters broke into the building where the Conservative headquarters is located, and caused damage before being evicted by the police.

Porter told Xinhua he and the NUS condemned the actions of the breakaway group. "We condemn the actions of a minority of rogue protesters. They have sought to undermine the serious message of more than 50,000 peaceful demonstrators."

"There have been approximately 35 arrests so far. Arrests are predominantly for aggravated trespass and on suspicion of criminal damage," said a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, London's police force.

Police also reported that 14 people, demonstrators and police, had been taken to hospital for treatment.

Sir Paul Stephenson, head of the Metropolitan police, said the force should have expected that violence might break out, adding "It's not acceptable. It's an embarrassment for London and for us."

Source: Xinhua


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