Support 100 years of independent journalism.

13 November 2010

Should the “fire extinguisher” protester be charged with “attempted murder”?

Debating the appropriate punishment for violent demonstrators.

By Mehdi Hasan

A 23-year-old student from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge suspected of hurling a fire extinguisher from the top of Millbank Tower during Wednesday’s tuition fee protests in London has been arrested by the police “on suspicion of violent disorder”.

The Guardian has a video of the fire extinguisher falling from the roof here. One police officer told the paper that the extinguisher had “missed him by inches and would have killed him if it had hit him”.

The chair of the Police Federation, Paul McKeever, has called for the student to be charged with “attempted murder”.

But isn’t that a bit excessive? Don’t get me wrong. I may support protests against spending cuts and tuition fee increases, but I also happen to think that the authorities should come down very hard on anyone found guilty of violent disorder or destruction of property. Protests should be peaceful and non-violent. The thing is, are we really supposed to believe that the student on the roof threw the fire extinguisher with the intention of killing someone?

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

What do you think?

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas