Policing of student protest not enough: Britain police

Thursday, November 11, 2010

LONDON - Britain’s police admitted that policing of the riot Wednesday, when students protesting the government’s plan to raise university tuition fees stormed the ruling Tory party headquarters, was not adequate.

The Metropolitan Police are facing a major inquiry after its chief Sir Paul Stephenson confessed that the policing arrangement to prevent the riot was an “embarrassment”.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the violence and called for the rioters to face the law, the Daily Mail reported. The prime minister, however, said there was no possibility of overturning the decision on fees and declared: “We won’t go back”.

“Even if we wanted to, we shouldn’t go back to the idea that university is free,” he was quoted as saying.

The protest turned violent Wednesday when a group of demonstrators stormed the Tory party office in central London and damaged property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Stephenson said his force had failed to predict the trouble, with just 20 officers holding back surging crowds at the main flashpoint.

“It’s not acceptable. It is an embarrassment for London and for us and we have to do something about that. I think we’ve also got to ask ourselves some questions,” he said.

“This level of violence was largely unexpected and what lessons can we learn from the future. We are already doing that and asking those questions. Certainly I am determined to have a thorough investigation.”

Cameron, who is in South Korean capital Seoul for the G20 summit, responded to Stephenson’s statement saying: “They were very brave, those police officers, but as the police themselves have said, there weren’t enough of them and the police response needs to reflect that.”

The protest of 50,000 students, lecturers and supporters started peacefully with a march from Whitehall past Downing Street and parliament. But it turned violent when demonstrators halted outside Millbank Tower, home to Tory headquarters.

Despite the march having been publicised for weeks, Scotland Yard had policed the event with just 225 officers.

Officers watched helplessly as protesters charged the entrance lobby and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage by using chairs and fire extinguishers to smash the glass frontage, effectively opening up the atrium to the entire crowd.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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