Students seize police van amid London protests against fees


London : Students vandalised a stranded police van amid waves of protests Wednesday in a day of action against British government’s plans to treble university tuition fees and scrap education maintenance allowance.

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No officers were inside the van trapped inside a kettle of students near the British parliament in central London, while slogans were daubed upon the vehicle with the police looking on.

The incident was among sporadic clashes as tens of thousands of students walked out of classes around the country in a national day of action against allowing universities to increase of undergraduate fees up to £9,000 a year.

The co-ordinated protests, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), comes after more than 50,000 people marched in London two weeks ago in the biggest demonstration seen since the height of the Iraq war.

The national action, which is being supported by lecturers and teachers, involved more than 20,000 school, college and university students pledging to walk out of lessons, hold rallies and occupy buildings.

In London, a Carnival of Resistance march was held in the face of a heavy police presence, including riot squad officers on alert to prevent a repetition of the Conservative headquarters again being occupied.

Outside parliament, thousands of marching students from the capital’s universities were “kettled” by police despite the controversial tactics being widely criticised for antagonising demonstrators.

In northern England, more than 2,000 noisy students marched from Leeds University to the city centre, while across in Manchester, the main rallying point was the town hall.

Bristol in western England was the scene of some clashes as protesters broke through a police cordon blocking off the city centre.

There were also scores of demonstrations elsewhere, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Durham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Cardiff, Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge.

On Monday, nearly 300 academics and professors, from 76 universities, signed a joint letter expressing support to the campaign, while executive members of the National Union of Teachers on Sunday also expressed their solidarity.

Britain’s Conservative-led government is planning to allow universities to increase tuition fees up to £9,000 a year despite its junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats signing an election pledge opposed to any increase in charges.

The police were reported to have warned Lib Dem MPs and officials that their constituency offices may be occupied by students targeting their offices as part of the day of protests.