Today 50,000 students from around the UK took to the streets of London to protest against our government's plans to raise university tuition fees to astronomical heights. The students, myself included, marched through London, waving placards and chanting a variety of anti-government slogans. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.
“No ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”
The hatred for Prime Minister David Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was out on display for the world to see as students marched past Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Westminster and the Tory HQ on Millbank. The atmosphere was electric as samba bands pelted away on their instruments while a brass band blasted out familiar tunes.
For the most part, there was little visible police presence and the students kept to the route. The day's speeches and video packages elaborated on how many students feel let down by the Lib Dems doing an about-turn on tuition fees.
During speeches, a breakaway group of people, students or not, stormed Tory HQ at Millbank Tower, smashing windows and pelting the building with eggs and water bottles. This kicked off at about 2 pm and there was a sizeable group at the building until after sundown, burning placards, throwing rocks and sticks, chanting, shouting and confronting the police.
Riot cops formed a line in front of the building with students in front and the media behind. There were a few moments when students hurled missiles in unison and the situation threatened to get out of control, but for the most part it did not descend into chaos. A number of windows were smashed and 35 people were arrested. Seven protesters and seven police officers were injured. At one point, protesters on top of Millbank Tower dropped a fire extinguisher from the roof.
From what I saw, the police were not aggressive and kept order as best they could. There were a number of people who seemed to have wanted to cause trouble from the get go. People wore masks and hoods and some were inciting others to become violent. A number of the protesters were visibly drunk or stoned.
The world's media has picked up on the story and of course the violence is what has made the headlines and provided the photo fodder. National Union of Students President Aaron Porter condemned the violence, which really put a dampener on what had otherwise been a positive day.
As I left at about 6 pm, the numbers had dwindled considerably, although some diehards were still milling about and a few were staging some kind of sit-down protest.
Those responsible for the violence today should be ashamed of themselves.
I have more photos on my FlickR. The video above was shot by me using a Flip cam and crudely strung together using Windows Movie Maker.