Student fees protest: Cameron condemns royal attack Skip to main content

Student fees protest: Cameron condemns royal attack

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Amateur footage of the attack on the Rolls-Royce carrying the royal couple
Lessons need to be learned from a security lapse which allowed protesters to attack the Prince of Wales's car, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Those responsible for the violence at Thursday's student protest must feel the full force of the law, he said.
Prince Charles, whose car window was smashed as he and Camilla headed to a theatre, said he "totally understood" the difficulties police faced.
MPs pushed through plans to raise the maximum tuition fee level to £9,000.
But 21 Lib Dems voted against the proposals, slashing the government's majority.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has said the Lib Dems are still "united" despite the rebellion.
'Thugs' Thousands of students had gathered in London ahead of the vote before the protests turned violent.
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Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said the royal route was cleared in advance.
There were angry clashes as protesters - some throwing missiles - fought to break through police lines.
Met Police chief Sir Paul Stephenson said the royal attack was shocking and the couple should be commended for their fortitude.
He also said the route was "thoroughly recced" in advance, including several minutes beforehand, and that his officers had shown "commendable restraint".
He said: "The unpredictability of the - I was going to say demonstrators but I'd rather describe them as thugs - and how they moved about the capital meant that the protection officers were placed in a very difficult position.
"Yesterday was a thoroughly disgraceful incident and there will be a very full and detailed criminal inquiry into how that attack happened."
Students have criticised police tactics - particularly of holding demonstrators in a small area, known as "kettling" - and said police provoked the situation.
Simon Hardy, of the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts, said: "The violence we witnessed yesterday from the police, before anything had been done by the protesters, is typical of how the Met has responded to these demonstrations.
Riot police contain protesters in London
"They turned up in riot gear, with horses, batons and shields. They said they wanted people to leave to Victoria Embankment and then 'kettled' them and then started beating people.
"Anyone who tries to resist is then told they are being violent."
But the Met Police Federation said officers had acted with professionalism and selflessness and that, if they had not, the consequences would have been "unthinkable".
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating a claim that 20-year-old Middlesex University philosophy student Alfie Meadows was left with serious head injuries after being hit on the head with a police truncheon at the demo. The Met Police referred the incident to the commission early on Friday.
University of London students union president Clare Solomon said: "Any harm to our students is on the head of the police and they will be feeling the full force of the student movement and we urge them to desist in their violence."
Map showing key events at student protest in London
Meanwhile Mark Bergfeld, of the Education Activist Network, said there had been no call to attack Prince Charles's car and that the royals were "in the wrong place at the wrong time".
Mr Cameron described the incident as "very regrettable".
But he said: "Let's remember that this was not the fault of the police.
"This was the fault of the people that tried to smash up that car. Responsibility for smashing property, for violence, lies with the people that perpetrate that violence and I want to see them arrested and punished in the correct way.
"But of course we must learn the lessons from what was a very regrettable lapse of security."
London Mayor Boris Johnson said it was regrettable the heir to the throne could be surrounded by agitators and that people's first instinct was to blame the police.
Labour leader Ed Miliband joined the condemnation, saying the attack was "totally unacceptable".
Of the wider vandalism, he added: "There is never any excuse for violence or disorder on our streets, nor for vandalising some of our nation's most important symbols."
Clarence House said the royal couple were unharmed and attended the annual Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium as scheduled.
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David Cameron: "There were quite a number of people who clearly were there wanting to pursue violence"
A spokesman said: "Although we are not able to comment on any of the specifics of last night's incident, their royal highnesses totally understand the difficulties which the police face and are always very grateful to the police for the job they do in often very challenging circumstances."
The former head of royal protection, Dai Davies, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was "appalled" by the attack and surprised by the apparent lack of strategy.
He said: "One of the principles of protection is to have alternative routes and I would have expected there to be at least three different routes.
"I'm surprised, and clearly the commissioner is embarrassed and surprised also, why there isn't better co-ordination - or appears to be - between those in charge of protection and those marshalling and dealing with the riots."
In angry scenes, protesters battled with police in Parliament Square. Hundreds were contained on Westminster Bridge for a time by officers.
Riot police had to force back protesters smashing windows at the Treasury and the Supreme Court.

How the vote went

  • 28 Lib Dem MPs voted yes
  • 21 Lib Dem MPs voted no
  • 8 Lib Dem MPs either abstained or were absent
  • 6 Conservative MPs voted no
  • 2 Conservative MPs abstained
Earlier, protesters had largely taken over Parliament Square and pressed against lines of police in front of the Houses of Parliament. Mounted police were used to control crowds, at one point charging a group of protesters.
Police said there were attacks using "flares, sticks, snooker balls and paint balls".
Scotland Yard said 12 officers and 43 protesters were injured and 33 people were arrested. Most have been released on police bail. None has so far been charged.
Only 28 Lib Dem MPs - fewer than half - voted for the government's plans for tuition fees. Six Conservative MPs voted against. Three ministerial aides resigned.
The package of measures will see fees rising to an upper limit of £9,000 per year - with universities charging more than £6,000 per year told to protect access for poorer students.


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