the youth are in the streets!
‘Cops off Campus’ was the rallying cry of Thursday’s demonstration across London’s Bloomsbury campus. The previous day saw students, inspired by similar occupations across the country, peacefully occupying 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 many others across the country, called for rights for outsourced workers, an increase in university staff pay, and the preservation of ULU. The occupiers entered the corridor at 2:30PM and were 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 had tired themselves out, the police took it upon themselves to evict the occupiers despite the fact that no laws had 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, some were forced to leave their possessions which since have been seized by the police as ‘evidence’. The protestors then reconvened with the solidarity demonstration outside and marched to the main entrance of Senate House to protest where they were met with more police thuggery.
The Guardian’s footage of 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. Five protestors were taken in vans and students reacted by blocking roads, demanding their release. One has been charged and the rest were released on bail.
Thursday’s demonstration was a necessary and justified reaction to these events. Students and staff marched together to register their anger over the university and polices’ actions. The protestors, peacefully marching around Bloomsbury were once again met with heavy state repression. Chased off their own campus by police, 38 students were kettled and arrested and the police began to grab suspected demonstrators off the surrounding streets.
These tactics are familiar. The mass arrests at the anti-EDL demonstration in Tower Hamlets were the most significant. The police are routinely using these tactics to intimidate protestors and crush any semblance of resistance in its infancy. This cannot be tolerated.
What has been most significant about the actions of the past two days is 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?
It has become clear is that the universities are working hand in hand with the police at every level. The students are on the offensive. There has been a fundamental shift in the way we conceive of our institutions, they have revealed themselves to be completely unaccountable profit-driven entities.
In every way, the 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 to 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, people over profit . Join us. We can win.