Three weeks on from the Comprehensive Spending Review, the National Union of Students and the University College Union organised a demonstration against the Government’s proposals. The event was tipped by many to be the biggest student protest for a generation, with students and lecturers flocking from all over the country to show their dismay at the plans to raise tuition fees further.
Swathes of people protested amidst a clamour of chants, which included: “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” and rather more irreverently: “I say Tory, you say scum.” Many signs featured jibes at Nick Clegg reneging on his pledge in April that he would vote against any proposals to raise tuition fees.
Other placards ranged from the insulting to the humorous, with phrases like “I’ve always wanted to be a bin man” and simply “I’m Welsh and I’m angry.” The president of the NUS, meanwhile, addressed students from the roof of an open-air bus, declaring “We will not accept these vicious cuts to education. This is just the beginning.”
The protest later turned its attention to Millbank 30, where as few as twenty police officers attempted to restrain the surge of hundreds of protesters who broke through into the foyer. The building was evacuated via back exits. Later, it became apparent that a number of Tory officials had been present inside, including Baroness Warsi.
Approximately ten males led the majority of the wrecking, throwing desk-chairs, a metal heater and other equipment against the glass walls. The 15 foot tall, split laminated glass of the façades collapsed forward, narrowly missing protesters. It was only at 4.30pm that riot police arrived. Eventually, 51 people were arrested and 14 were injured, seven of them police officers.
SU President Will Vickers condemned the violence as “totally disgusting” in a tweet. David Cameron also branded the behaviour as “unacceptable”. Asked whether his government would reconsider their plans, he told ITV news: “We won’t go back. Look, even if we wanted to, we shouldn’t go back to the idea that university is free.”