U.K. students protest tuition hike

Vandalism breaks out as thousands of students rally in London to protest against government plans to triple tuition fees.

Vandalism broke out as thousands of students rallied in London on Wednesday to protest against government plans to triple tuition fees.

Some protesters made their way into Millbank Tower, which houses the headquarters of the governing Conservative Party. They smashed windows, trashed the lobby, spray-painted walls and set a few small fires outside the building. A group that reached the roof threw projectiles down at police and fellow protesters.

"We are destroying the building just like they are destroying our chances of affording higher education," said Corin Parkin, 20, a student at London's City University.

Protesters burn their banners outside Millbank Tower, which houses the headquarters of Britain's ruling Conservative Party, during a protest in London against big hikes to university tuition. ((Sang Tan/Associated Press))

Police said eight people, a mix of demonstrators and police officers, were taken to hospitals with minor injuries. More than 30 people were arrested.

As darkness fell in the evening, police in riot gear retook the office tower and regained control of the streets.

But law enforcers were under scrutiny amid questions about whether they had enough officers on duty and how a march that began so peacefully descended into a fracas.

Organizers and many of the protesters condemned the vandalism.

"The actions of a minority, out of 50,000 people, is regrettable," said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, a faculty group. 

CBC's Tom Parry, reporting from London, said the protest started off peacefully by the Thames before it got ruinous.

"They're saying the protesters inside committing these acts don't really speak for that and the message they want is they don't want the government raising tuition fees, but they're worried that message is getting lost in the destruction," he said.

The British government plans to make cuts to universities and take the cap off tuition fees beginning in 2012, raising them to $14,000 a year from $4,800.

The tuition increases are part of plans to tackle the country's ballooning deficit. The government recently announced major cuts across the board as it attempts to cut $128 billion from public expenditures over the next four years.

With files from The Associated Press