UNIVERSITY students protesting against the British Government’s plans to triple tuition fees forced their way into the headquarters of Prime Minister David Cameron’s party.
In chaotic scenes, around 20 students got into the lobby of Millbank, a 1960s office building near the Houses of Parliament that houses the Conservative Party, an AFP reporter said.
The protesters inside the office block clashed with police who hit them with batons as they tried to round them up.
Outside, police barricaded the entrance to the building.
Demonstrators – some stripped to the waist and with scarves around their faces – smashed windows at the office block on the banks of the River Thames and made a bonfire of a pile of placards outside.
Hundreds of workers in the building, which also contains the offices of dozens of companies, were evacuated after a fire alarm went off.
The students were taking part in a 20,000-strong march through London in protest at the proposals of the coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats which came to power in May.
One student, Bernard Goyber, a 19-year-old reading history at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said: “I wanted a peaceful demonstration. We wanted to take our voices through the streets.
“Students haven’t been consulted about the rise in fees at all and universities are being savaged by the cuts.
“Fifty per cent of students can’t get jobs, most students won’t be able to pay this anyway.”
The move to raise fees directly contradicts a pre-election promise made by the Liberal Democrats of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the junior coalition partners.
Students from towns and cities across Britain had travelled to London in coaches, with big university cities including Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham well represented.
Protesters waved placards saying: “Stop education cuts” and “9K? No way”, referring to the £9000 ($14,340) maximum level of the annual fees.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), warned the Liberal Democrats they would lose the support of a generation of young people if they continued to back the tuition fee hike.
“MPs must now think twice before going ahead with this outrageous policy,” he said.
The issue of tuition fees had earlier dominated the weekly session of question and answers in parliament hosted by Clegg in the absence of Cameron, who is on a visit to China and the G20 summit in South Korea.