LONDON (Reuters) - British police promised an investigation on Friday after Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, was caught up in London’s worst riots in years as student protests over a rise in fees boiled over.
Thousands of students, furious at government plans to raise the cap on tuition fees almost threefold, fought running battles with police throughout the center of the capital on Thursday.
At one point the protesters surrounded a limousine carrying Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth’s oldest son and heir, and his wife Camilla, kicking the doors, cracking a window and throwing white paint on the car. The couple escaped unhurt.
The London Evening Standard newspaper reported that a protester managed to push a stick through an open window and jab Camilla in the ribs. Protesters could be heard shouting “Off with their heads!” in a shaky filmed recording of the incident.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the violence and said he was concerned about the lapse in royal security.
London police chief Paul Stephenson would investigate the riot and the incident, Cameron said, promising the “full force of the law” would come down on offenders.
“There were quite a lot of people who were hell bent on violence ... The crowd behaved sometimes in an absolutely feral way. I think people see that as completely unacceptable, violent thuggish behavior,” Cameron said.
The clashes were the worst political violence in London since a mass riot in 1990 over a local tax which helped to end Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher’s decade in power.
Inside parliament, the coalition overcame its most serious rebellion so far to narrowly push through the increase in fees paid by university students.
Elsewhere, protesters smashed windows in the finance ministry, daubed slogans on the statue of British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill and threw lumps of rock, paintballs and flares at riot police, who hit back with truncheons.
Forty-three protesters and 12 police officers were injured and 33 protesters were arrested, police said.
Students countered with allegations of police heavy-handedness and said the protests would continue.
Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Union, blamed the trouble on provocation by “a violent minority within the police force.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had launched an investigation into an allegation that a 20-year-old student was hit on the head with a police truncheon, causing serious head injuries.
Alfie Meadows, who was reported to have suffered bleeding on the brain, was operated on during the night and appeared to be out of danger, his mother Susan told the BBC.
The seven-month-old Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came through the first serious test of its determination to push through sharp cuts in public spending to curb a record peacetime budget deficit.
But the issue split the center-left Liberal Democrats, the smaller coalition partner, who are the target of student anger for reneging on an election pledge to scrap tuition fees.
Analysts said the revolt had undermined the authority of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, but Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable said the coalition would be strengthened by “this very difficult and rather cathartic experience.”
Analysts say the coalition will hold together, but could come under increasing strain as cuts bite harder next year.
Additional reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Maria Golovnina