The Government has passed a vote to raise the cap on tuition fees to £9000 per year today despite protests and lobbying by students from Warwick and other universities across the country.
Students from universities across the UK gathered in London and engaged in marches around Westminster, of which the main demonstration took part in Parliament square.
The National Union of Students (NUS) also organised a march and a vigil along Embankment, where Aaron Porter and others made speeches to the crowds encouraging and promoting their peaceful action.
Violence erupted throughout the afternoon in Parliament Square when bricks, flares and other missiles were aimed at police. Bonfires were also lit which heightened the violence, resulting in protesters pushing down metal barriers and engaging in scuffles with police.
Mid-afternoon, police adopted a containment policy where protesters were kettled inside an area of Parliament Square. Originally, there had been a planned route approved by Scotland Yard, but when many students broke away from this, protests became more extreme.
Despite the fact that around 1,000 members of the police force were present in the Westminster area to attempt to control the protests, there were three officers sent to hospital, and ten were injured with broken bones.
22 people have been arrested for violent disorder, attacks on police officers, arson, criminal damage, theft and drunk and disorderly behaviour.
John O’Connor, a Police Commissioner said: “I don’t think the police have anticipated the levels of violence that has been happening.”
“It makes us look a laughing stock around the world. … [It] can’t go on like this. … We’re going to get a lot more of this, it isn’t going to go away.”
Daniel Stevens, SU President, Sean Ruston, Education officer, Leo Bøe, Welfare Officer, and Campaigns Forum Co-ordinator Megan Fortune joined other students from Warwick in London to protest against the fee rises.
A number of the sabbatical officers and students gained access to the Houses of Parliament and managed to speak to local MPs Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) and Lorely Burt (Solihull) regarding the cuts, organised with the help of the NUS.
Despite abstaining from today’s vote, Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt said she would have loved to oppose it. She also congratulated student action: “At least students are politically active and demonstrating. … I think it’s healthy that people are.”
Protestors also attacked a car containing Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at around 7.30pm while they travelled down Regent Street to the Royal Variety Show. They smashed the window of the car and threw a can of white paint, despite police flagging the car as it passed through central London. The pair have not been hurt, and the performance was reported to have started on time.
Elsewhere in central London, protesters attacked the HM Treasury Building and Supreme Court building, causing severe damage to windows and doors, and daubed walls and statues with graffiti. Riot police defended buildings from the inside to attempt to minimise damage.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Today’s vote is a disaster for young people and families up and down the country, who now face the prospect of significantly higher fees and higher debt when they go to university.
“It is also a disastrous day for Nick Clegg and his leadership of the Liberal Democrats. Clegg and his fellow Lib Dems who have supported this proposal have destroyed their party’s claim to stand for fairness and opportunity for many years to come.”
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London described the violence today as “an insult to our democracy,” for which “there is no excuse.”
Three members of the Government have resigned over today’s vote: Jenny Willot, MP for Cardiff Central, Mike Crockart, aide to Scotland Secretary Michael Moore and Conservative MP Lee Stott, ministerial aide to Philip Hammon.
The Co-President of the Liberal Democrats Society at Warwick, Joseph O’Leary, has also resigned his post and left the party following the passing of the tuition fee vote.
After Parliament Square was cleared after the decision to release people from the containment area at around 7pm, there were reports that protesters moved to other areas of central London including shopping areas on Oxford Street, where buildings such as Topshop have been attacked.