9/12/2010 - The UK student protests reached a new climax Thursday with heavy riots around Westminster, as the House of Commons approved plans to increase tution fees for students in England to up to £9,000 per year. The move was carried by 323 votes to 302, which means that the Conservative-Liberal coalition government's notional majority narrowed of 84 to 21. Although all 57 Lib Dem MPs said before the election that they would oppose any rise in tuition fees, 28 of them voted for the hike, while even 6 Tory backbenchers voted no.
The day had begun with new demonstrations and sit-ins throughout Britain followings weeks of nationwide protests, university occupations and direct actions lobbying or targeting MPs. Maybe 25.000 students were marching through central London, repeatedly attempting to break through police lines or rushing down side streets, determined to reach parliament. Although it was announced that protesters would not be allowed into Parliament Square, students surged in, getting close to the House of Commons, while the police began to “kettle” people then tore into them. They started with baton charges then galloped in on horseback (aerial view video), whereby one rider fell from his horse (Video from Sky News)
A live protest map also here
Subsequently students launched themselves at police lines and barriers, and tore down the fencing around the grass in Parliament Square (Video), forcing the police to retreat behind barricades as the Parliament Square and the surrounding streets were finally occupied (see Video roundup , Video). A group of around 150 students, furious at being stopped from joining the protest outside parliament, occupied the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square, others set off to march through central London .
When the Commons' vote finally became known in the early evening, some protesters tried to ram their way through the doors of the Treasury, chanting "One solution, revolution", and started using concrete blocks and metal poles to smash windows of the building on Great George Street while being contained inside the square. Others attacked the Supreme Court or vandalized statues in Westminster Square, including one of Winston Churchill.
Three quarter hours before the attack on the Supreme Court, around 7:15 p.m., Prince Charles and Camilla entered the scene, as if the royal protocol wished to reserve them also a little role in this riot theatre: Their limousine, a 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI, was attacked by protesters in Regent Street as they travelled to London Palladium for a Royal Variety Performance. A rear window was smashed and paint bombs were hurled at the vintage car, but the princely couple stayed unharmed (Video, Amateur footage & witnesses). The Duchess of Cornwall tried to brave the situation even with historic sense of mind: “There’s a first time for everything,” she told reporters before the couple drove off in an armored police truck after the performance.
At nearly the same time, around 7:25 p.m, a group of up to 1,000 students were marching down Oxford Street, chanting "General strike now". A branch of Topshop, owned by billionaire Philip Green, who has been targeted for not paying taxes on company dividends in the United Kingdom, was savaged on the way, while bins were overturned and police were attacked on Oxford Street, causing panic among shoppers.
Altogether some 38 protesters and 10 officers have been injured according to official reports. Six officers required hospital treatment and four suffered minor injuries. So far 20 people have been arrested: nine for violent disorder, two for arson, two for assault on police, two for criminal damage, one for being drunk and disorderly and four for burglary.
Meanwhile, a law professor, Ian Grigg-Spall, said he lodged a legal complaint calling for Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to be prosecuted for fraud over the controversial tuition fees under Section 2 of the Fraud Act.
Students lay siege to House of Commons (Socialist Worker Online, UK, with links, timeline etc.)
Britain: the student revolt (In Defense of Marxism, large roundup)
For whom the fee tolls - The Debt Generation fights back, as Parliament votes on fees (SchNEWS, UK, compact story of events)
Police brutally attack protesters as UK parliament backs university fees hike (World Socialist Web Site)
Da Londra: L'avanguardia balla il dubstep (Mercato Occupato, Bari, Italy)
Royal car attacked in protest after MPs' fee vote (BBC, roundup with video)
Protesters Attack Car Carrying Prince Charles (New York Times)
police/media lies - student protest pics & report (Indymedia London)
London tuition fee protest (Boston Globe, The Big Picture, big-formated photos)
Students smash the police in London (Anorak.co.uk, 66 photos)
Protesters attack royal couple yes! and yes! British students riot in London (Act for Freedom Now, photos)
Prince Charles and Camilla caught up in tuition fees protest violence (Liverpool Daily Post, UK)
Sarah Teather votes for tuition fee hike (Willesden & Brent Times)
UK backs tuition hike amid furore (Al Jazeera)
Londres: manifestations violentes sur fond de débat parlementaire (Agence France Presse)
Londra: 20mila persone assediano la Camera dei Comuni e assalto all’auto di Carlo e Camilla (La Repubblica, Italy, via Contro l'Informazione Manipulata)
Englische Uni-Reform : Wütende Studenten attackieren Limousine von Prinz Charles (Der Spiegel, Germany)
Studentenproteste: Randalierer greifen Charles und Camilla an (Focus, Germany)
"An Opposition, on coming into power, is often like a speculative merchant whose bills become due. Ministers have to make good their promises, and they find a difficulty in so doing. They have said the state of things is so-and-so, and if you give us the power we will do thus and thus. Of course, something must be done: the speculative merchant cannot forget his bills." (Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution, 1867, Chapter V)
"The House of Commons is thronged with people who get there merely for 'social purposes', as the phrase goes; that is, that they and their families may go to parties else impossible." (Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution, 1867, Chapter II).
"In all cases it must be remembered that a political combination of the lower classes, as such and for their own objects, is an evil of the first magnitude; that a permanent combination of them would make them (now that so many of them have the suffrage) supreme in the country; and that their supremacy, in the state they now are, means the supremacy of ignorance over instruction, and of numbers over knowledge. So long as they are not taught to act together, there is a chance of this being averted, and it can only be averted by the greatest wisdom and the greatest foresight of the higher classes." (Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution, Introduction to 2nd ed., 1872)
Photo No. 2: The Open Society and Its Enemies: Liberal Democrats Party Leader Nick Clegg and Vince Cable on 11th April 2010 as they put the finishing touches to the Liberal Democrats party election manifesto at Mr Clegg's Putney home.