British students stage sit-ins after violent fees protest
British students occupied buildings at several universities Thursday in protest against government plans to triple fees, a day after demonstrators attacked a police van and clashed with officers in London.
Oxford University, University College London, Cardiff University and other institutions across the country reported that hundreds of students had staged sit-ins overnight.
On Wednesday an estimated 10,000 people took part in the second mass protest in London this month, taking out their anger on a besieged police van and starting fires before they were contained for hours in the cold by officers.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, told the BBC that the protests were "only the beginning" of widespread action against the coalition government's plans to hike university tuition fees.
He blamed the violence, however, on "professional troublemakers."
Thirty-two people were arrested in London and two police officers and 15 protesters were injured, Scotland Yard said. Two protesters were arrested in Cambridge, one in Liverpool, four in Manchester and six in Brighton.
At Oxford, a university spokesman said a "small number" of students were early Thursday occupying the Radcliffe Camera, a huge domed building that is part of the university's centuries-old Bodleian Library.
A spokeswoman for University College London said about 50 people were still staging a sit-in in one of the university's main buildings, and Cardiff University in Wales said students were occupying a lecture hall.
Students are furious at plans by Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition for a sharp rise in fees to up to 9,000 pounds (14,500 dollars 10,500 euros) a year as part of deep public spending cuts intended to pay off a record deficit.
Universities minister David Willetts dismissed protesters' arguments that higher fees would discourage people from going to college.
"No young people or their parents are going to have to reach into their back pocket to pay to go to university. They will only pay after they have graduated," he told private broadcaster ITV.
© 2010 AFP