Student protest sparks Tory HQ evacuation

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A huge demonstration against tuition fees by tens of thousands of students and lecturers descended into violence today when a group of protesters smashed their way into the headquarters of the Conservative party.

A number of police officers were injured after they came under attack from youths, some wearing scarves to hide their faces, amid scenes of chaos. Eight people were taken to hospital with injuries after the violence flared at Millbank Tower, next to the River Thames in central London.

The demonstration, organised by the National Union of Students and the University and College Union, started peacefully, with up to 50,000 students, lecturers and supporters, marching from Whitehall past Downing Street and Parliament.

But around an hour after the protest started, violence flared at Millbank Tower, close to the Tate Britain art gallery where the march was due to end with a rally. Hundreds of workers were evacuated from the building, which also houses other organisations including Government agencies, as windows were smashed and a fire was lit.

About 50 protesters got on to the roof, dropping a large metal fire extinguisher on to riot police. Water fire extinguishers were also let off from the roof and eggs were thrown. On the ground, sticks and other missiles were thrown at police from a crowd of at least 1,000.

Placards and banners were being burnt, to cheers from the crowd, while protesters inside the building used chairs as they smashed and kicked their way through more of the glass frontage, effectively opening up the whole atrium to the crowd. One policewoman with a bloody wound to her head was led away from the side of the building by two colleagues. A stick was thrown at her as she went.

A confetti of torn newspaper rained down on the hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Millbank atrium after students gained access to the upper floors of the building. Water also poured down on them, seemingly from a broken sprinkler system above.

A red flare was let off as the atmosphere within the crowd became increasingly volatile. The crowd responded to the heavy police presence with loud booing, screaming and chanting. Students who had got inside the building's atrium tried to pull down the few remaining huge sheets of glass. Others hurled stuffed pillows while the chants of "Tory scum" increased in volume. A Conservative Party spokesman said that all its staff were "safe" but could not confirm whether or not they had been evacuated from the building.

NUS president Aaron Porter said a small minority of protesters had "hijacked" the march, describing the violence as "despicable". He said the violence was not part of the organisers' plans, blaming the trouble on a "small minority" he believed had arranged it beforehand. "We talked about the need to prevent anything like this and how important it was to act in a responsible way. Unfortunately a minority have undermined us." An NUS spokesman said: "The trouble makers have let down students."

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "The actions of a minority should not distract from today's message. The overwhelming majority of staff and students on the march came here to to send a clear and peaceful message to the politicians. The actions of a minority, out of 50,000 people, is regrettable."











The protesters in the Tory HQ building and on the roof released a statement which said: "We oppose all cuts and we stand in solidarity with public sector workers, and all poor, disabled, elderly and working people.



"We are occupying the roof in opposition to the marketisation of education pushed through by the coalition government, and the system they are pushing through of helping the rich and attacking the poor.



"We call for direct action to oppose these cuts. This is only the beginning of the resistance to the destruction of our education system and public services."









About 50 police in riot gear tried to drive the crowd back away from the building at around 16.25.



They succeeded in clearing half the courtyard area before the protesters refused to move further.







There were scuffles at the front of the crowd, with protesters throwing missiles and hitting officers with sticks.















About 50 riot police moved in just after 5pm as the majority of the protesters began to leave the scene.

One student barring the way of the helmeted officers was hit in the face with a police shield.









Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "I am appalled that a small minority have today shamefully abused their right to protest.

"This is intolerable and all those involved will be pursued and they will face the full force of the law.



"The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has assured me that there will be a vigorous post incident investigation. He will also be reviewing police planning and response."











A protester was pulled from the crowd and pinned down by four officers in riot gear in front of Millbank Tower. He was handcuffed and hauled through the shattered entrance of the lobby into the building.

About 25 students remained detained inside a police cordon inside the heavily graffitied entrance.



Conservative Party staff remained in their offices throughout the violent protests - with chairman Baroness Warsi believed to be among those inside.



"There was no need to evacuate," a party spokesman said.



"Everyone has the right to protest but they also have a responsibility to do so in the appropriate way," he went on.



"We thoroughly condemn the use of violence."











The police slowly forced the remaining protesters out of the courtyard of Millbank Tower.

Students shouted: "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts" as the line of riot police pushed them backwards into the street.















Police officers formed a line across Millbank after clearing the forecourt area of the tower, which was left strewn with debris and ash.

More than 200 officers remained at the scene in full riot gear, holding back a small group of noisy protesters.



Inside the severely damaged lobby of Millbank Tower, a group of around 25 protesters could be seen surrounded by police in fluorescent jackets.



Officers led them down from various floors of the the seven-storey building where they were found after running inside at the peak of the riot.













Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said the force should have anticipated the level of violence "better", adding: "It's not acceptable.

"It's an embarrassment for London and for us."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas