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13 November 2010updated 04 Oct 2023 9:48am

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?

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