12 of the World’s Most Violent Student Riots
12 of the World’s Most Violent Student Riots

12 of the World’s Most Violent Student Riots

Tim Flight - July 26, 2018

12 of the World’s Most Violent Student Riots
University of Maryland students ‘celebrate’ their college basketball team’s victory, College Park, 2002. Crooked Monkey

University of Maryland, 2001, 2002, 2010

Ably giving their northerly cousins at Michigan State University a run for their money, the sport-loving students of Maryland University have rioted severely on three occasions. In 2001, it was once again the basketball team’s loss to Duke in the NCAA Final Four that caused a serious student riot. After the basketball team blew a 22-point lead, Maryland students started bonfires on the streets, which inevitably got out of control, attacked police, smashed shop windows, burgled houses, and set fire to a mobile home. In all, they managed to cause $500, 000 worth of damage in College Park, Maryland.

In 2002, they were at it again, but this time it was a victory that inspired the riot (anything Michigan State can do…). The college basketball team had just managed to win their first ever title, appropriately on April Fools’ Day. Around 5, 000 celebrants went onto the streets, starting bonfires with couches and bins and generally flipping over anything unwise enough to have been left on the street, such as cars. The streets were witnesses to drunken brawls, flying beer bottles, and riot police. $50, 000 worth of damage and 17 arrests later, the students called it a night.

A more minor riot followed in 2010, when a victory against… you guessed it, Duke, led to raucous celebration. Only 1, 500 students were there for this one, which may be because the University of Maryland passed legislation after the 2002 incident expelling anyone caught misbehaving after college sports games, but they still managed to cause an incredible amount of damage by setting things on fire. The students also took advantage of chilly weather by pelting police with snowballs and ice, leading to 28 arrests. On an unsavory note, two policemen were indicted for an unprovoked assault on a celebrant.

12 of the World’s Most Violent Student Riots
Things get ugly during the UK Students Protests, as a rioter kicks in the window of the Tory Party’s headquarters, London, 2010. WordPress

United Kingdom student protests, 2010

Back to Britain for the final item on the list, this particular riot was caused by changes to the university system in the UK. Until 1998, it was free to go to university in the UK, but in September of that year it was announced that a fee of up to £1, 000 per year would be payable by students. In 2004, this tripled to £3, 000, and again in 2010 to £9, 000. This latter figure was what inspired students to take to the streets in November 2010, causing widespread mayhem, violence, and great sums of damage.

As well as being exorbitantly high, the 2010 figure was controversial for other reasons. In the 2010 General Election, the Liberal Democrat party had garnered much support amongst students when it promised to oppose any rise in tuition fees for students. When no party got a majority, a coalition was formed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and the latter instantly dropped their election pledge as part of the power-sharing deal. Yet whilst the fees had tripled, the government simultaneously announced that it would cut its spending on universities, dramatically reducing teaching hours. What were students paying more for?

On November 10th 2010, between 30, 000 and 52, 000 students from across Great Britain and Northern Ireland marched through London in protest at the tuition fee increase and cuts to spending. They were even joined by a few MPs. The National Union of Students (NUS) had urged a peaceful protest, but unfortunately things got terribly out of hand. The police, expecting only 20, 000 protestors, had only deployed 225 officers to maintain order on the march. Thus the limited police presence meant that 200 people were able to break into 30 Millbank, Westminster, the headquarters of the Conservative Party.

The students vandalised the building, setting placards on fire and smashing windows (see above), whilst chanting ‘Tory scum’. When riot police were eventually deployed, they were pelted with eggs, rotten fruit, and broken glass. Many arrests were made as the students were finally persuaded to leave the building, and a miraculously low number of 8 people were injured during the occupation. As well as the vandalism, if you’ve ever had the misfortune to have driven a car through London, you’ll realise the severe impact that thousands of people on the tiny, congested streets caused. The capital was at a standstill.

Protests did not end after the march on November 10th. Across the country, students and even lecturers occupied lecture halls and classrooms for days and staged protests on campuses. Subsequent marches on November 24th and 30th led to more violent clashes with police. A protest at Parliament Square on December 9th saw mounted police charged into the crowd, injuring many students. The riots ended with several hundred arrests, severe damage to buildings in Central London, and no change to the tuition fees. The current £9, 250-a-year tuition fee is set to rise again with inflation, whilst spending has not increased.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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Lewis, Paul, Jeevan Vasagar, Rachel Williams and Matthew Taylor. “Student protest over fees turns violent”. The Guardian, November 10th 2010.

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