‘Smashing Buildings Is Completely Fine’: Violence Divides Cambridge

The violence at yesterday’s national student demo has sparked contrasting reactions in Cambridge. Click here for quotes and videos.

CUSU juan zober de francisco NUS student march tuition fees university cuts

The violence at yesterday’s national student demo has sparked contrasting reactions in Cambridge.

At lunch time, a group of students smashed the windows of Conservative Party HQ and hurled objects at police outside the building, causing an estimated £1 million worth of damage.

CUSU president Rahul Mansigani said he was “appalled not only by the violence, but by the political stupidity of those who chose violence rather than peaceful protest today.”

And Juan Zober De Francisco, the outgoing president of King’s student union, said in his Facebook status: “if you resorted to violence today, you’re no friend of mine”, to which one friend replied “selfish twats”.

Not everyone agreed that the violence was a bad thing though. A third year historian at Corpus, who wished to remain anonymous, said Cambridge students were among those on the roof of Millbank Towers.

He said: “It was students from King’s who made the effigies of Cameron and Clegg. It’s been fantastic. The atmosphere is amazing and everybody is really nice.


“The majority is a completely non-violent protest. I’m not really worried about violence against property or objects, smashing buildings is completely fine, it’s a great image of our anger. I’ve got no problem with that at all as long as nobody gets hurt.”

Luke Hawksbee, who recently failed in his bid to be the next CUSU Coordinator after more people voted to Re-Open Nominations, suggested that the violence was not necessarily a bad thing.

He said: “I could argue all day long about the effects of the Millbank affair, whether it was good or bad, etc. I’m annoyed, however/therefore, when people seemingly dismiss the whole debate as if it was completely self-evident that there are never any arguments for, and there are overwhelming arguments against, what took place.

“Surely the real “political stupidity” is glibly dismissing dilemmas through force of convention, etc?”

And former Cambridge University Socialist Students chair Ed Mustill wrote on his blog that “Without the Millbank action, the demonstration would likely have been reduced to a footnote in the daily news cycle”.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Tab: “I ended up inside Millbank Towers as it was all kicking off.

“The violence was horrible. My friend went in a few minutes before so I kind of had to follow her.

“The people smashing windows were a small minority, although there were lots of us in the building.”

CUSU estimates that of the 52,000 students who reportedly took to the streets, almost 400 were from Cambridge.

The Metropolitan Police have apologised for their handling of the incident.

Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said: “We didn’t expect this level of violence. It’s not acceptable. It’s an embarrassment for London and for us. I am determined to have a thorough investigation into this matter.”


Anger spreads when protesters on the roof  drop a fire extinguisher onto police below.

National Union of Students president Aaron Porter condemned the violence as “despicable”.

“This was not part of our plan,” he said. “This action was by others who have come out and used this opportunity to hijack a peaceful protest.”