OVER 2,000 students demonstrated outside the University of London Student Union yesterday to express their anger at the attack by the university management on students’ right to protest, and against police brutality.
In speeches outside the university, students demanded the dropping of all charges against colleagues arrested last week.
They marched behind banners, including Unison and the SOAS Student Union, to Senate House chanting: ‘Cops off Campus! Whose University? Our University! Whose Education? Our Education!’
They marched en masse to Senate House and were not deterred by locked gates, pushing through them into the forecourt, where last week students were brutally arrested.
Students were addressed by speakers from a platform, including the Assistant General Secretary of the PCS, Chris Baugh, who pledged the union’s full support and called for unity between the trade unions and students.
He told the rally: ‘It gives me great pleasure to bring you solidarity from my trade union.
‘For those who are prepared to fight against the influence of the markets and the mainstream media, who tell us we have to pay the price for an economic crisis that we didn’t create, I want to commend you for the protest against the privatisation of education, which is intended to price students, particularly working class students, out of the right to a university education.
‘I want to commend you for linking up with the lecturers taking action and particularly for supporting those workers on private contracts awarded by the university authorities that involve the super-exploitation of the workforce, failure to pay a living wage, zero-hours contracts – the race to the bottom.’
Leah Edwards, Co-President of Student Welfare and Campaigns at SOAS, told News Line: ‘Over the past couple of weeks we have seen increased police presence on our campuses, from very small demos to the large demo last week for cleaners and the staff at the University of London who are fighting for fairer conditions.
‘Every time there have been almost as many police as protesters, if not more.
‘They have been kicking us off our campuses, dragging us out and throwing us over railings. It’s just not on.
‘They are trying to silence our dissent, trying to silence our criticism of the institution and we are not taking it anymore.
‘What is incredible about today is that we have come together.
‘We are students, staff and academics here, marching together because we are already united in terms of what is happening to our education.
‘The silencing of protests on campuses is just the latest symptom of neo-liberalism coming into our universities, ripping apart our welfare, paying our lecturers unfair wages, and outsourcing staff who have no pensions and derisory pay. And we have all had enough of it.’
Amber Holmes, President of the Students Union at the Institute of Education, told News Line: ‘We are here to protest today against the level of police brutality after the occupation last week at Senate House Library.
‘We have seen an increase in police presence cracking down on student protests and it is really important to protect our civil rights to peacefully protest.’