LONDON – Thousands of British students protested Wednesday against government plans to triple university tuition fees, and there were sporadic scuffles with police, two weeks after a similar demonstration sparked a small riot.
College and university students across the country held marches and sit-ins to oppose the decision to increase university fees to $14,000 a year, a key plank in the government’s deficit-cutting austerity measures.
In central London, the university students and younger pupils in school uniforms marched from Trafalgar Square toward the Houses of Parliament, chanting “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts.”
The Metropolitan Police said two officers were injured in London, including one with a broken arm. Thirty-two protesters were arrested for charges including violent disorder and criminal damage.
Some attacked a parked police van, smashing the windows and scrawling graffiti. Others destroyed phone boxes and set fire to a ticket machine at a bus stop.
“Education is not a rich kid’s game,” said Tash Holway, 19, a student. “If this keeps up, the entire industry will change. It won’t be about talent, but only about who can pay.”
Lines of police guarded the headquarters near Parliament of junior government partner, the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems have drawn particular anger because the party campaigned on a promise to abolish tuition fees, then abandoned it once in power.
The party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, said Wednesday “I massively regret finding myself in (the) situation” of not being able to keep this promise.