11 Dec 2013

No arrests at #CopsOffCampus student protest

Thousands of students from across the UK meet in central London for a national day of protest, after police made 41 arrests during a student demonstration last week.

Students from universities in London and further afield gathered outside the University of London Union (ULU) on Wednesday afternoon, holding placards, chanting and dancing to a samba band.

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 students joined the protest, which comes three years after the 2010 mass student demos against tuition fee rises and what was deemed the “privatisation” of universities.

At around 3pm, a group of students broke through gates to the grounds of Senate House. They were not stopped by security staff, and no police officers were visible at the scene.

The protest then appeared to divide, with some students walking down to the Strand. A group also went past the Royal Courts of Justice and to Parliament Square, where police officers and vans were present. A group of students started to attack a police van but there appeared to be no retaliation from police at that time.

A Met Police spokesman said officers were monitoring the protesters’ march through central London.

He added: “No arrests have been made at this stage. We will always look to facilitate peaceful protest. What we must balance is the rights of people to protest with the public’s right to go about their daily business.

“We have had an appropriate policing operation in place throughout the course of this afternoon, including pre-deploying officers at a number of central London locations.”

Ban on occupations

The #CopsOffCampus protest was called in reaction to heavy-handed police handling of an occupation protest at Senate House on Wednesday 4 December, after which 41 arrests were made. Only one person was charged – the rest of those arrested were released on bail – and further protests on 5 and 6 December followed.

However the University of London was granted an injunction order against any occupation. It reads: “Anyone who occupies any of these buildings or spaces for the purposes of carrying out a protest before June 2014 will commit the criminal offence of contempt of court.”

#CopsOffCampus was supported by the national campaign against fees and cuts, and various student unions, but no one organisation claimed responsibility for its organisation. In the crowd, placards represented a variety of causes, including justice for Mark Duggan (the man whose shooting in London triggered a wave of rioting), anti-government cuts and “no to police brutality”.

Read more from Paul Mason on the politicisation of student protest

‘The beginning of a mass anti-privatisation movement’

Michael Chessum, ULU president and national organisation against fees and cuts organiser, told Channel 4 News the protest represented a “reinvigoration” of the student movement.

“Largely it’s centring around workers’ rights, and workers’ struggles, but also more broadly around hypocrisy on campus and around the idea of privatisation,” he said. “I think what we’re seeing is the beginning of a mass anti-privatisation movement on campus.”

Another student, who wanted to be known only as “Max”, said she was protesting about “not being listened to and having our protests violently repressed”.