Demonstrators kick car carrying Prince Charles
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, December 9, 2010 8:55PM EST
A car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was attacked Thursday amid growing protests in London over rising university fees, The Associated Press reports.
A photographer for the AP watched as protesters kicked the royals' car as it was parked on Regent Street, which is located in the city's popular shopping district.
A group of about 20 people -- who punched, kicked and smashed the car with sticks -- were involved in the incident. A window was smashed and the black vehicle was left with paint splatters.
The attack is part of a larger demonstration against austerity measures passed by Britain's Parliamentarians which could result in spiking tuition fees for post-secondary students.
Some demonstrators reportedly chanted "off with their heads!" during the melee, which was a serious security breach.
Despite the chaos, the 62-year-old Charles managed to keep his cool, said witness Adnan Nazir, who added that the Royal acted to protect his wife by guiding her to the floor of the car.
"Charles got her on the floor and put his hands on her," Nazir said. "Charles was still waving and giving the thumb's up."
"It was just a surreal thing," he added. "It was completely manic."
The car quickly sped off after the incident. It's not clear if the attack was targeted.
Later in the day, Charles' office confirmed that the attack occurred, but officials said "their royal highnesses are unharmed."
The couple, looking composed, later showed up at the London Palladium theatre for a Royal Variety Performance. However, the Rolls Royce limo in which they were riding was spattered with paint and had a cracked rear window.
Officials will launch an official probe into the incident, which was "shocking and regrettable," according to Prime Minister David Cameron.
The anger on the streets was palatable following the passage of bill which will raise tuition fees across the country.
The new plan raises the tuition cap to 9,000 pounds, which is about $14,000 dollars. The plan passed with a vote of 323-302 in the House of Commons.
Near Parliament, riot police clashed with angry student demonstrators in an attempt to keep them away from the House. Thousands took part in the protests, many of them shouting "shame" and other slogans.
In one incident, a group ran through the London's shopping areas in the West End smashing store windows. They also set fire to a massive Christmas tree located in Trafalgar Square.
British Home Secretary Theresa May dismissed the protests as unnecessary violence. "
What we are seeing in London tonight, the wanton vandalism, smashing of windows, has nothing to do with peaceful protest."
Officers said that "extreme violence" was being directed at London's Metropolitan Police. According to reports, billiard balls, paint bombs and flares were being tossed at police. At least 43 protestors and 12 officers have been injured.
At least 22 people have been arrested.