Royal car attacked in UK fees protest

 

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were attacked by protesters in London tonight as tuition fees demonstrations descended into vandalism and violence.

Charles and Camilla were unharmed after their car was struck and daubed in paint as they made their way to the Royal Variety Performance in central London.

Police and protesters were taken to hospital following a series running battles in the Westminster area after MPs voted to hike tuition fees to up to £9,000.

Protesters attacked a number of Government buildings near the House of Commons, smashing windows at the Treasury and the Supreme Court and vandalising statues in Parliament Square, including that of Winston Churchill.

The chaos spilled out on to Oxford Street as a number of demonstrators continued their protest.

Police condemned the behaviour, with Superintendent Julia Pendry describing the demonstrators’ actions as “outrageous”

She added: “This is not peaceful protests at all — this is acts of wanton vandalism, wanton violence and a complete disrespect for central London.

“Not only have we had attacks on Parliament, the attacks on our officers, we’ve now had the Supreme Court that has come under the attack of vandalism and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have also come under attack in Argyll Street.

“We have now got a number of protesters rampaging their way through London, committing acts of violence, acts of terror, not only to Christmas shoppers and to tourists but to innocent people in London going about their business tonight.

“It is appalling, disrespectful behaviour to everybody else in London.”

UK prime minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman also said he condemned the “unacceptable” violence.

Some 38 protesters and 10 officers have been injured. Six officers required hospital treatment and four suffered minor injuries.

So far 22 people have been arrested: one for being drunk and disorderly, three for criminal damage, two for arson, nine for violent disorder, three for assault on police and four for burglary.

When the royal couple arrived at the theatre, they appeared relaxed however, their Rolls-Royce limousine was left with a badly-cracked passenger-side rear window and was spattered with paint thrown in the Regent Street attack.

Scotland Yard condemned the “outrageous and increasing levels of violence” tonight.

A spokesman said: “This has nothing to do with peaceful protest. Students are involved in wanton vandalism, including smashing windows in Oxford and Regent Streets.

“Innocent Christmas shoppers are being caught up in the violence and disruption.”

Those being held in Parliament Square, especially the young and vulnerable, were being allowed to leave in small numbers via Whitehall, police said, and those in the containment were able to get water and use toilet facilities in nearby Great George Street.

A spokeswoman for London Ambulance Service said that by 8.30pm they had treated 37 people, of whom 31 had been taken to hospital.

She could not confirm how many of the injured were police and how many were protesters.

Earlier protesters fought running battles with police in the centre of the city after parliament voted to increase fees paid by university students in a close vote which divided the coalition government.

After the vote, demonstrators broke down a door into Britain's Treasury (finance ministry) and fought with police who were inside the building, a witness said. They chanted "we want our money back" as they clashed with officers before being driven back.

The measure to increase a cap on tuition fees is the first test of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition's ability to push through painful austerity cuts as it seeks to eliminate a record budget deficit.

The lower house of parliament approved the plan by a majority of 21 votes, with 27 members of the coalition parties voting against and a handful abstaining.

While a break up of the coalition looks unlikely, analysts say further divisions over spending cuts will make the life in government increasingly difficult for the Lib Dems.

The plan is expected to go to a vote in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, on Tuesday.

Students have protested in their thousands across the country against the higher fees, arguing they will price out the poor. They also accuse the Lib Dems of reneging on a pledge to abolish the fees during this year's election campaign.

The government has made cutting a record peacetime budget deficit its priority. Departments have to slash spending by some 19 per cent over the next four years, which is likely to result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of state-funded jobs.

Under the tuition fee changes, universities in England will be able to charge students fees of up to £9,000 (€10,737) per year - almost treble the current limit.

The plan has put pressure on Lib Dem leader and Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg with his party seen in danger of suffering lasting damage in the eyes of the electorate. Its opinion poll rating has halved since the May election.

Agencies