The-Latest - EXCLUSIVE
Only a small anarchist minority were involved in violent action at a much-publicised London student demonstration against government cuts, a protestor has told The-Latest.Com. Student leaders fear that the disturbances will be picked up by politicians and news media to undermine the legitimate grievance raised by the 52,000-strong protest.
Sam Davies, 19, who is studying anthropology at university, said, by mobile phone: "We arrived at the Conservative Party headquarters at about 3pm. Some anarchist dressed in black and red started a mini bonfire with placards in the middle of the square. Then they ran past security on the door and the idiots smashed windows so other people could get inside. The response of the police was pathetically weak. I was surprised how easy it was to get past them."
Davies added: "In the building some people got hold of fire extinguishers and sprayed them around the offices which they trashed. There were a few security guards around but they were powerless to do anything to stop what was happening because they were heavily outnumbered."
He went on: "They (the security guards) called for back-up but there were only about 20 police around. We got onto the roof and a fire extinguisher was thrown from there. I only stayed on the roof for about 10 minutes before 30 of us decided to use a fire escape to leave. A security guard tried to stop us but most of us managed to push past him and four police who grabbed at some people they managed to catch."
Davies insisted that, like the G20 protest in London in April last year, "it was quite a peaceful protest". He added: "It's just that the Tory party HQ happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was actually more anger towards the Lib-Dem (Coalition Government partners) for selling out their policies on student fees and the cuts in university funding. But their HQ was not on the route of our march."
News reports stated that after initially being ejected from the lobby of the steel and glass Millbank tower block by police and security staff, the protestors smashed their way into the Conservative Party HQ through windows.
Using sticks and chairs they destroyed CCTV cameras and broke windows from the inside of the office block. Staff had to be evacuated as masked youths rampaged through corridors and onto the roof.
According to one national newspaper report online, police officers stationed outside the entrance were overwhelmed as the crowd of thousands pelted them with rocks and bottles.
Reinforcements in riot gear were deployed in an effort to stem the damage but appeared unwilling to engage the troublemakers, confirming what The-Latest was told.
The demonstration, organised by the National Union of Students, is thought to have attracted more than 50,000 people, in the biggest show of opposition to the Coalition Government since it came into power in May this year.
Students from towns and cities across the UK travelled to London in coaches to join lecturers, pensioners and medical trainees in voicing their opposition to the rise.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said he was disappointed at the violence. He tweeted that he was "proud of the 50,000 students who have come to protest peacefully", adding "shame on those who are here to cause trouble".
Student leaders point out that the cost of a degree has tripled. Under the Government's proposals, which represent the most radical shake-up of student funding for decades, the fee cap will be raised to £6,000, with universities able to charge up to £9,000 – triple the current cap – in ''exceptional circumstances''.
David Cameron risked making tensions around the debate worse when he told an audience of Chinese students, on his trip to China this week, that the rise in fees for British undergraduates would help "control" growth in costs for foreigners attending British universities.
The proposed changes to university funding are politically explosive as many Liberal Democrat MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, publicly pledged during the General Election campaign not to allow fees to go up.
Under the coalition agreement Lib Dems are allowed to abstain on the tuition fee vote. Clegg came under attack for his U-turn over increasing tuition fees as he stood in for David Cameron today at Prime Minister's Questions.
But he insisted the Government's plans to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees from 2012 was a "fair and progressive solution to a very difficult problem".
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman sought to play on Liberal Democrat unease about the rise in the cost of a university education, saying: "In April this year the Deputy Prime Minister said that it was his aim to end university tuition fees."
With Labour MPs laughing at Clegg, she asked: "Can he update the House on how his plan is progressing?"
Clegg said: "This is an extraordinarily difficult issue and I have been entirely open about the fact that we have not been able to deliver the policy that we held in opposition.
"Because of the financial situation, because of the compromises of the coalition Government we have had to put forward a different policy."
Students at the demonstration held up banners calling Clegg and the Lib Dems "traitors".