Student protest

Following decades of student apathy, the campuses are a stirring.

students leaving Cornwallis building following student sit-in at University of Kent at Canterbury  March 1970

students leaving Cornwallis building following student sit-in at University of Kent at Canterbury March 1970

The height of student protest was the late 1960s, early 1970s, then nada.

Centres of student radicalism, Kent and Sussex.

At Kent, students occupied the Cornwallis building and occupied it for weeks. The issues were student files and lack of accountability. The Free University of Canterbury in Kent was declared.

From the heyday of the late 1960s, early 1970s, nada, decades of student apathy, universities turned from centres of academic excellence to bums-on-seats businesses.

We see Coke machines, Starbucks, Subway on campuses. They would not have got a look in during the late 1960s, early 1970s.

Are universities and students no longer capable of running their own coffee bars, are those placing the contracts getting backhanders?

If you want an on-campus quality coffee shop (which immediately rules out Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero), then invite a local entrepreneur to run it, engage a skilled barista, train the students on the art of coffee making (it might be the only job they can find on graduating), serve quality coffee, quality food, occasional live music in the evening, a quiet area to sit and study.

UK Uncut and Occupy have shown the way forward, it is only through protest and occupation we move the agenda forward. Last month Civil Society walked out of the Climate Talks in protest at the hijacking by Big Oil, Big Coal.

Protest has become imaginative.

There has also been the expected brutal backlash.

New York last year we saw police brutality against Occupy New York. On a student campus, peaceful students were pinned to the ground and pepper spray sprayed into their eyes.

This year there has been police brutality against students at London University, at Sussex there has been intimidation by the Vice Chancellor.

At Sussex, the students are protesting at privatisation. The response of the Vice Chancellor has been heavy handed and completely over the top.

On Wednesday evening, after coming home from work, I found an email in my inbox from the vice-chancellor of my university. It told me that I was suspended from the University of Sussex, meaning I am unable to go on to campus, attend classes, or be involved with any societies and campaigns. I am unable to access teaching, resources, or even attend my doctor’s surgery.

If the Vice Chancellor of Sussex thinks intimating students, will stop protest, then he is not fit for purpose and should resign with immediate effect. It goes without saying, the suspended students should be reinstated forthwith, and receive an unconditional apology.

The university authorities lacked even the common courtesy to call the students in, they were sent an e-mail.

Please sign the petition calling for the suspended students to be reinstated and add your voice calling for the Vice Chancellor to resign.

At the University of London, an occupation was broken up by security thugs and Met Police using extreme violence, one student punched in the face and knocked to the ground, others report being physically attacked by security thugs and police.

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.

The level of police force that we have seen in the last couple of days is totally unprecedented on university campuses. It appears pre-planned. It is as if they are reacting to a riot situation — taking the level of force — and using it against students protesting on a university campus.

Michael Chessum, president of the University of London Union, was arrested on his way home for organising an unauthorised protest against the forced closure by the university authorities of the London Student Union building.

The demonstration Michael helped organise in his role as ULU President was peaceful and part of a proud history of student dissent. The students protest didn’t even leave the pavement for goodness sake!

Is it Turkey, Egypt or England? It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell. Authoritarian rule, zero tolerance of dissent, violent repression.

A Cops off Campus National Day of Action has been called for Wednesday 11 December 2013. The Cops off Campus protest will take place at the University of London and campuses across the country.

In the past month universities across the country have been subject to unprecedented levels of violence from the police, targeting a resurgent wave of activism against the privatisation of the university system.

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.

If you cannot protest on a university campus against policies of the university where can one protest? Are universities not meant to be bastions of free thought?

The reason we are seeing this clampdown, is that authorities are paranoid at protest. They realise that the reaction, not only of students, but of Civil Society, is that enough is enough, they have had enough of Austerity, and see it for what it really is, Shock Doctrine, an excuse for slash and burn of public services, of cutting welfare.

We are seeing not only brutal crackdown, we are also seeing a failure of the mainstream media to report.

Last month two protests took place in London. There was a deafening silence from the mainstream media.

Originally published on Medium.

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