- Category: Campaigns
- Published on Friday, 6 December 2013
- Written by Sam D
Cops off campus! The battle cry of yesterday’s demonstration rang out across the Bloomsbury campus of the University of London. The previous day saw students peacefully occupy the management corridor of Senate House, where they were met with a reaction from security and police that was both disproportionate and brutal.
The occupation, inspired by others across the country, called for rights for outsourced workers, an increase in university staff pay, and the preservation of the University of London Union (ULU). The occupiers entered the corridor at 2.30pm and held their ground before being forcibly evicted at 8.30pm. The security staff inside the occupation were merciless, punching, kicking and pulling the hair of students, all while several police officers stood by and watched. When the security grew tired the police took over evicting the occupiers despite no laws having been broken. This level of collusion between university management and police is a clear symbol of the unity of the two establishments. They are the vanguard of the bosses, the dual guardians of the austerity project.
The students were forced to escape the onslaught via a ladder from the balcony, unable to take their possessions, which since have been seized by the police as ‘evidence’. The protesters then reconvened with the solidarity demonstration outside and marched to the main entrance of Senate House, where they were met with more police brutality. Footage released by the Guardian of Wednesday’s protest, which shows a policeman punching a student repeatedly in the face, has gone viral and there is more footage still to be released. People cried out in pain as police continued their assault, knocking several students to the ground. As five protesters were taken away in vans, students reacted by blocking roads, demanding their release. One has been charged and the rest were released on bail.
The demonstration yesterday was a necessary and justified reaction to these events as students and staff marched together to register their anger over the university and police’s actions. However, as the protesters peacefully marched around Bloomsbury they were once again met with heavy state repression. Chased off their campus by police, 38 students were kettled and arrested while other police began to grab suspected demonstrators off the surrounding streets. These tactics are not new, the mass arrests seen at the anti-EDL demonstration in Tower Hamlets this September being the most significant in recent times. The police routinely use these tactics to intimidate protesters and crush any semblance of resistance in its infancy. This cannot be tolerated.
What has stood out during the actions of the past two days has been the way in which the battleground has been so clearly defined. This is a struggle about space. These actions go to the very heart of what exactly the role of a university is. Are they places of intellectual development and research? Or are they businesses, spaces in which a product is bought and sold and the only thing that matters is how much is in the executives’ bank accounts at the end of the week? What has become clear is that the universities are working hand in hand with the police at every level. But students are now on the offensive; there has been a fundamental shift in the way view of our institutions, they have revealed themselves to be completely unaccountable, profit-driven entities.
Universities are a perfect microcosm of the austerity project. Outsourcing, pay cuts, job losses, ridiculous management pay, immigration checks, and attacks on unions - we hear of these events continually but what has happened at Senate House in the last two days has revealed them in their most vicious totality. Austerity is being forced upon us and attempts at resistance are being crushed by brutal force. ‘Cops off campus’ isn’t just a convenient slogan; it strikes at the very heart of what austerity is about. The ruling class are engaging in a full frontal assault on the livelihood of the majority and there has never been clearer evidence of this. They are frightened and the students may well have just put them on the back foot. A victory in the battle for the universities is a triumph of fairness over greed, democracy over unaccountability, and people over profit. Join us. We can win.