Lecturers back students over protests at Tory HQ

A LECTURER at a Scottish university has criticised the way police handled a student demonstration, saying the focus should be on why protesters felt they had to resort to disorder, rather than on prosecuting law-breakers.

Dr Carlo Morelli from the School of Social and Environmental Sciences at the University of Dundee called for an end of what he called a "witch hunt" to track down students who overran the Conservative Party headquarters after the demonstration deteriorated.

Last night Dr Morelli said: "We think it's totally innapropriate, the witch-hunting now going on to track down those students who gained access to the Millbank offices. The focus should be looking at why the feelings ran as high as they did.

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"They have to understand where the violence comes from and that is that students are being asked to pay for their education and bear the brunt of a problem that is not of their making.

"We would not support violence, but what we are saying is we can't really blame the students. That there was violence was really no surprise. If a voice is not heard, then it finds other ways to come out.

"Students have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard and this is one of the ways that it is heard."

In a letter published in The Scotsman today, Dr Morelli and group of staff working in Scottish higher education institutions praise the demonstration last Wednesday, calling it "a magnificent show of strength against the Con Dems' savage attacks on education".

The letter concludes: "We will not condemn students for fighting to defend their education and our education system. Instead we condemn those who seek to undermine the welfare state, throw over a million people on the dole and wreak violence on the most vulnerable on society."

Yesterday in was revealed that a 17-year-old arrested after last week's student fees protest has been released on police bail.

The teenager was the 57th person to be questioned in connection with Wednesday's disorder during which a fire extinguisher was allegedly launched from the roof of Millbank Tower.

A student at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, has already been questioned in connection with the incident and released on bail.

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The 23-year-old, originally from Reading, Berkshire, was held at Parkside police station in Cambridge.

A Met spokesman said: "A 17-year-old male arrested on suspicion of violent disorder has been bailed to a date in mid-February pending further inquiries."