Arrests in London as thousands protest student fees

4th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

London police on Wednesday made several arrests as a student protest against tuition fees that attracted thousands led to a group trying to force its way into a government building.

"A small group of protesters threw paint outside the Home Office and another group attempted to push their way into the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) building but were prevented by police," said a statement from the Metropolitan Police.

"During this spell, a small number of smoke bombs and eggs were thrown at police outside BIS. Officers have made a number of arrests for public order offences."

Footage showed masked protesters breaking through a police line and chanting: "What do we want? Free education. When do we want it? Now."

Students at the central London protest called for the end of fees and challenged plans to scrap maintenance grants and replace them with loans.

They were addressed by the opposition Labour Party's finance spokesman John McDonnell, who accused the government of "betraying" students.

"Education is a gift from one generation to another, it is not a commodity to be bought and sold," he said.

"This government is betraying you and future generations. You need to oppose it and I'm here in solidarity with that opposition."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also sent a message of support, in which he said there was an "opportunity to change course and to change Labour into a force that represents students' desire for free and accessible education".

Protesters carried signs bearing messages including "ignorance costs more than education", "despair is the new normal", "books not bombs" and "free education -- tax the rich".

Demonstrator Callum Cant told AFP: "Ever since the government introduced tuition fees... there's been a student movement in the UK fighting for free education.

"But alongside that, the government is trying to introduce a whole lot of new issues, like the cutting of maintenance grants."

Finance minister George Osborne has called the students' demands "unaffordable" as the government attempts to cut public debt.

A further day of action has been called on November 17.

© 2015 AFP

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