Mark Bergfeld 0

Drop the charges against SOAS protesters

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On late Monday afternoon, a hundred students and staff from SOAS and the University of London assembled to protest against Universities Minister David Willetts’ visit to the college. In order to avoid a repetition of what happened to A.C. Grayling’s lecture at Foyles bookstore, or Richard Dawkins at the Institute of Education SOAS management had not listed the event on its website. In addition, SOAS management flouted the fact that both the Students’ Union and UCU at SOAS have voted motions of no confidence in David Willetts. Instead they invited the police onto college grounds to guard the door to the Brunel Gallery. Asserting their democratic right to protest, students and staff entered the building and occupied the foyer of the lecture hall in which Willetts was speaking. Once the occupation had ended the police arrested a student, and went over to arrest three more. Police were using batons, they erected metal barriers outside the Brunel Gallery and one plain clothes police officer was spotted giving hand signals to the police. The police's actions were provocative, violent and turned a good-natured protest into a scene of mayhem. The events of yesterday are indeed worrying as they show once again the brutal methods the police will employ in order to quell dissent on the streets and on our campuses. It seems that now, every time the students’ and trade union movement calls a protest, the police abuse their powers to intimidate and attack people taking part. On June 30, up to one million public sector workers will be striking in defence of their pensions and livelihoods. Yesterday’s attacks on our right to protest resemble the arrests before the Royal Wedding and in the run-up to March 26. We pledge to defend and assert our right to protest, and demand - SOAS management instigate a full independent investigation with the involvement of student and staff from the college into what happened at the demonstration - the police drop all charges against the arrested protesters - An end to political policing Initial Signatories: Mark Bergfeld, NUS NEC & Education Activist Network Jim Wolfreys, UCU Kings College Jelena Timotijevic, UCU and Defend the Right to Protest Clare Solomon, ULU President Sean Rillo Raczka, ULU Vice-President Ruby Hirsch, NUS NEC (FE place)

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