Fear & intimidation: UK students unite against ‘persecution’
UK students are rallying together against a ‘police crackdown’ after a week of protests led to violence and a ban on demonstrations at a London university. Activists claim the police and universities are using intimidation tactics to gag protesters.
The student protest movement in the UK has taken social media by storm under the hashtag #copsoffcampus to call for an end to student repression. Students have organized a ‘Day of Action’ for Wednesday and asked students around Britain to join together in mass protest.
“Across the country, students are initiating a vibrant, popular, winnable fight for democratic and public universities, free from exploitation and repression. We cannot be beaten if we stand together,” says the description of the event on Facebook that already has over 2,000 confirmed attendees.
The #copsoffcampus movement gained momentum after a string of protests and peaceful student occupations ended in clashes with police and numerous arrests. In addition, the University of London filed an injunction that prohibits demonstrations on its campus, while a university in Birmingham threatened protesters with up to 25,000 pounds ($41,000) in fines.
The University of London maintains it tolerates peaceful demonstrations, but stresses the measure was necessary to prevent “the type of violent and intimidating behavior that we have seen by protesters at Senate House recently.”
Students have slammed the injunction, which bans demonstrations on campus until June next year, as “draconian.”
Last Tuesday police evicted a group of protesters at Senate House, the headquarters of the University of London. Student activists claim heavy-handed tactics were employed by officers and that some of them were beaten. Footage emerged on YouTube following the eviction showing a police officer punching one of the student occupiers to the ground.
The following day students gathered again in a larger protest of around 300 people which ended in skirmishes with police and arrests.
University of London students were protesting against the privatization of the British university system and a plan to close the university’s student union. Following the student eviction the university’s Union released a statement, saying it has begun an investigation into the incident.
“We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair.”
Protests have since been seen across the UK in Birmingham, Goldsmiths, Exeter, Edinburgh, Warwick, Sheffield and Ulster.