Britain's Home Secretary said Monday that street gangs and hardcore activists infiltrated a protest last week in which demonstrators rampaged through London and attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla.
Several hundred people vandalized government buildings, battled riot police and rounded on the royal couple as they drove to a theater — smashing a window of their Rolls-Royce and splattering the car with paint.
Home Secretary Theresa May said many of the 15,000 people who gathered last Thursday in central London to protest planned increases in college tuition fees became involved in the violence.
She confirmed that one protester had managed to make contact with Camilla during the attack on the car.
"It is quite clear that these acts were not perpetrated by a small minority but by a significant number of troublemakers," May told the House of Commons.
May said police believe "the protests were infiltrated by organized groups of hardcore activists and street gangs bent on violence."
Forty-three protesters were injured during clashes with riot police — one seriously — and 35 officers were hurt, as well. Britain's police watchdog is investigating one incident in which a 20-year-old man suffered major head injuries.
More protests are expected this week as lawmakers in the House of Lords debate plans to allow universities to raise tuition fees to up to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) a year — three times higher than the current limit.
Security has been already been increased at Britain's Parliament, with barricades erected around the building and extra police guarding entrances.
Police have made 39 arrests in connection with Thursday's protests and have released photographs of about a dozen other people still wanted for questioning.
Officers said that Charlie Gilmour, the 21-year-old son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, was detained and is accused of attempting to damage the country's Union flag that sits atop London's main war memorial.
Demonstrators largely blamed the clashes last week on aggressive tactics by police, including the use of "kettling" — confining protesters to small areas for long periods.
An ombudsman report into the policing of demonstrations at the 2009 G-20 summit criticized London police for using the technique.
May said police had shown bravery and restraint during the protests last week, and said many demonstrators had turned up armed with makeshift weapons.
"The idea that some have advanced that police tactics were to blame when people came armed with sticks, flares, fireworks, stones and snooker balls, is as ridiculous as it is unfair," May said.
Despite the protests, lawmakers in the House of Commons approved the rise in college fees last week in a close vote.
- Britain s Home Secretary
- Prince Charles
- Union flag
- central London
- the House of Commons
- college tuition fees