British Students in Violent Protest Against Tuition Hikes

Violent protests drew tens of thousands of activists.

November 10, 2010 — -- Holding signs reading "Free my Future" and "Stop Education Cuts," up to 50,000 students stomped through the streets of London today, protesting both a tuition hike and deep cuts to the education budget.

The protests turned violent Wednesday afternoon with protesters and police fighting in front of the Conservative Party's headquarters, the Millbank Tower.

Students shattered the glass windows of the tower and hundreds occupied the building for a time. Activists threw water, paper, and even a fire extinguisher from the roof of the political headquarters.

Others built bonfires outside of the tower.

"We are destroying the building just like they are destroying our chances of affording higher education," Corin Parker, a student at London's City University, told the Associated Press.

British Government Moves To Triple Tuition

The Conservative Party, called the Tory Party, drew the ire of students and education activists by announcing plans to triple tuition fees, meaning tuition could be as high as $14,000 a year for some students.

"People like my brother who has just started out at university will have to pay ridiculous amounts when he leaves university and it's ridiculous," one protester said.

Police seemed unprepared for the violence. During frightening moments, protesters pushed right through police lines, venting their anger on the political headquarters.

Police said that eight people, both protesters and police, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Low Cost Education Considered Birthright

Theater student Bebe William Daniels told ABC News that she was willing to risk arrest to stand up to politicians.

"They don't listen to us, we don't have a vote on this and this is the only way we can show people how much we care," Daniels said.

A low-cost education in Britain is considered a right. In the United States, the average cost per year at a state school is just over $7600. On average, British students pay about $5000 a year for college and much of that is subsidized by the government.

Britain In Midst of Sweeping Austerity Measures

Britain's Liberal Democrats, part of the coalition government formed with the Conservatives in May of this year, campaigned on a promise to abolish education fees.

"I acknowledge, of course I acknowledge, this is an extraordinarily difficult issue and I've been entirely open about the fact that we have not been able to deliver the policy that we held in opposition," Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in response to the protests.

The anger in England is not limited to students. Like the U.S., the United Kingdom is just coming out of a deep recession and the new conservative government is gambling that massive spending cuts across the board will fix it's national debt of nearly $1.5 trillion, and get its economy growing faster.

Today's anger follows a subway strike that crippled London and threats from firefighters that they'll walk off the job. As the government here cuts its way out of the recession, the British people are bracing for a winter of discontent.

The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.

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