British press slams "brainless" student protestors

11th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British papers were Thursday mostly scornful of students who broke into Prime Minister David Cameron's party headquarters during a turbulent protest against a threefold hike in tuition fees.

The activists who stormed 30 Millbank, home of the Conservative party, scored an own-goal by shifting debate from the coalition government's plans to the limits of protest, according to the majority of the nation's newspapers.

Around 50,000 demonstrators took to London's streets on Wednesday with a small group breaching a surprised and undermanned police line to break into the six-storey tower block.

The Times ran with the headline "thuggish and disgraceful," quoting Metropolitan Police chief Paul Stephenson, while the Sun splashed "brainless" across its front page, a jibe at the so-called "yobs" and unprepared police.

The right-leaning Daily Mail led with "hijack of a very middle class protest," echoing a widely held press-belief that militants had "whipped up a mix of middle class students and younger school and college pupils into a frenzy."

Once inside the building, some protesters managed to make it onto the roof before throwing objects, including a used fire extinguisher, at police below. It was this act which drew most ire from the nation's press.

"Yesterday a group of students struck a blow," the Times leading article said. "But they did not strike a blow for freedom, or for democracy, or fairness. They just struck a blow. And shattered some glass."

"They showed some knowledge of the laws of physics: if you climb on a roof and drop a hard object, you can inflict damage on those standing underneath."

The left-leaning Guardian was more sympathetic, offering qualified support to students who could face a debt liability of 27,000 pounds (43,500 dollars, 31,500 euros) if they complete a standard three-year undergraduate course.

"These were politically important events and should be taken seriously," the paper's leading article said.

"In spite of a reprehensible violent sideshow, this was a large protest with significant public support and the capacity to have a palpable impact on mainstream politics."

© 2010 AFP

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