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Fees protesters storm historic building
ALMOST 100 protesters stormed Oxford University’s historic Radcliffe Camera yesterday during student demonstrations against the Government’s plan to raise tuition fees.
Students from Oxford’s universities, colleges and schools jumped over the iron railings surrounding the iconic Bodleian Library building at 1.30pm, tussling with security guards before dancing on tables and step ladders inside.
They had marched to the camera from Carfax protest against the Coalition’s higher education proposals, which will let universities charge up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees.
Police made no attempt to stop the students invading the Grade I listed building.
One masked Oxford Brookes student even scaled its walls to hang a banner saying Fight The Cuts from a third-floor window.
Ruskin College English student Paul Askew, 29, from Cowley Road, said: “There was a rave going on inside for 15 or 20 minutes.
“It was really good spirited. There were people dancing on the tables and the step ladders.
“Whenever it looked like it was going to get out of hand, the organisers told people that we didn’t want to damage anything.”
He added: “The Radcliffe Camera is such an iconic image of Oxford and its education, this was always going to be the place where people came to make their point.”
Some estimates put the crowd at about 500, although police claimed it was about 200.
When the group stopped at the Radcliffe Camera, students jumped over the railings and stormed the building.
One girl suffered injuries after falling off the railings, and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Police Inspector Omar Abu-Rish said: “Our primary role is to facilitate peaceful protests.
“If people are climbing over metal railings, the last thing we want to do is start taking hold of them so they may fall and cause injury.”
He said the occupation of the Camera was “civil trespass”.
He added: “There were no arrests and are no planned arrests, and we would not attempt to forcibly remove people from the building as long as they were peacefully demonstrating and protesting.
“What we will not accept is any criminal damage or violence.”
Oxford University refused to comment on the policing of the protest, and demonstrators were divided over the decision to occupy the library.
Oxford and Cherwell Valley College photography student Katie Newton, 17, from Headington, said: “This gets the message across. We all think it is completely wrong that we have been stabbed in the back.
“I want to go to university, but I would not be able to afford being saddled with debt for the rest of my life.”
But Doug Hale, 29, from Ruskin College, said: “I think it detracts from the message we are trying to get across, even though it shows the anger that some of the students feel towards the current situation.”
And a 15-year-old Cherwell School pupil, who had bunked off lessons to attend the protest, said: “We came to make a statement, but it will all be overshadowed by the people who went into the Radcliffe.”
The Oxford and District Trades Union Council praised the occupation.
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