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By Sophie Donszelmann, News Editor
OVER ONE THOUSAND took part in the “Cops Off Campus” protest on December 11 2013 as students and members of the public filled the streets of Bloomsbury to protest police violence against students and to promote the rights of university students and workers nationwide. The demonstration was a response to the arrests of 34 students and two journalists in the clashing of police and protestors a week prior.
“Defend the Right to Protest”, a campaign against police violence, summarised the aims under which the movement was organising: “defend protesters against police violence and criminalization. Support the right to organise, strike and demonstrate. No to student suspensions. No to injunctions on protests and occupations on campus.”
The procession of over one thousand moved away from the ULU Bloomsbury campus, down South Hampton Row, Kingsway (passing the LSE campus) and terminated in front of the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Mark Duggan inquiry is being held. Riot vans arrived on the Strand, however police did not exit the vehicles.
The demonstration began around midday outside of the University of London Union (ULU) as a large crowd gathered. Representatives from the National Union of Students (NUS) and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) were distributing flyers listing individual’s legal rights in a stop and search process. “You are not immune from police violence,” a NCAFC member said. “They will try to get you.”
The demonstration was largely peaceful. Students walked with signs and the sound of steel drums mixed with chants of ‘No justice, no peace. Fuck the police; Democracy not profits; Whose campus? Our campus.’ Sabbatical Officers from the University of Bristol Students’ Union held posters: “all I want for Christmas is the right to protest.”
In an interview with The Beaver, Rachel Wenstone, Vice President of Education for the NUS, said the “behaviour from the police and the criminalization of students is a worrying trend and it is something we should be opposing hard.” The NUS publically condemned the violence against students and called for Boris Johnson to launch an inquiry into police behaviour and tactics; a step that the mayor confirmed he would undertake in his speech at LSE in the same week.
A press conference was held prior to the protest, which representatives from Birmingham Defend Education, London Campaign Against Police and State Violence, ULU, 3Cosas and UNISON. Panelists related personal experiences regarding the actions taken against them and other protestors by “paternalistic university management” and local police authorities. Some of these actions included being arrested, kettled, or suspended from their institutions through acts that were labelled as a “concerted attack on student mobilizations for simply standing up and demanding more democracy.” “Victimised,” “bullied,” and “targeted,” were words frequently mentioned by all the speakers. ULU President and Press Secretary for NCAFC, Michael Chessum, was charged with failure to notify local authorities of early demonstrations. Unsurprisingly, members of the panel were adamant that they were not the organisers of the day’s protest. “All we know is that it starts outside this building.
A small proportion of protesters acted disruptively while concealing their faces and sporting anarchist flags smashed windows in Senate House and set a garbage can on fire; photos of which later emerged on national media. However, the relative lack of disruption led many to be pleased with the results of the day. “We peacefully protested and had our voices heard,” a student told The Beaver over loud chants of ‘cuts and job losses means money for the bosses.’ “Its great” she said. “We’ve won.”
Photo courtesy of Dennis Mooney