From today's papers:
On the day when the vote was to be taken about raising tuition fees in Britain, up to 30,000 students laid siege on Parliament Square and, in chaotic running battles with the mob, one mounted officer was knocked from his horse, another suffered a serious neck injury and others were attacked with flares, sticks, snooker balls and smoke bombs.
One student urinated on the Winston Churchill statue in the square, which was also daubed with offensive graffiti, including messages saying “racist warmonger” and “Churchill was a ----”.
A plastic booth thrown on to a bonfire of placards exploded into flames, billowing smoke across Westminster. The riots spread to surrounding areas and several buildings were attacked, including the Treasury, the Supreme Court and Topshop, owned by the billionaire Sir Philip Green.
The car in which the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were travelling through the West End was attacked. Police managed the situation and the couple were unharmed. However, demonstrators kicked the Rolls-Royce as it travelled to the Royal Variety Performance in central London. White paint and bottles were thrown over the car and a window was shattered.
The police were repeatedly attacked by surges from a hard core of mask-wearing anarchists and charged back on horseback. Several of the horses were repeatedly struck by missiles, and firecrackers were thrown in attempt to startle the animals.
Scuffles began as early as 2pm, ahead of the debate, as tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through London. One officer was seen being dragged to safety by colleagues after being hit on the head in Kingsway.
Hundreds of students pushed through the barriers, and flares were lit, as they streamed through metal gates on to the green in the square. As darkness fell, gangs of teenage vandals, some brandishing hammers, formed among the protesters.
About 20 individuals systematically began smashing every pane of glass in each telephone box despite female and male students ordering them to stop. The Supreme Court building was attacked by protesters brandishing shovels, a Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square was set on fire and, at the height of the violence, BBC news reporters were forced to don crash helmets for protection.
It is easy to understand the cause they were fighting for but not the means by which these students protested. I would hope that the majority of the students were neither involved in nor condoned the violence. It seems likely to me that there was a hard core of people, who may not even have been students, who were using the protest as a vehicle for their anarchic behaviour.
Unfortunately, they will all be tarred with the same brush and the public will not look on favourably at students and their plight in the future.
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