Friday, January 31, 2014

Escalation of Repression as Students Pledge to Mobilise

The following is a reposted joint press release from Defend Education Birmingham, Defend the Right to Protest and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Contact 07964791663, 07835769988, 07842765067.

  • 14 students arrested at University of Birmingham following national mobilisation
  • Students held in custody for over 24 hours.
  • 2 students suspended from the University of Birmingham
  • Excessive bail conditions given to students without charge 
  • 2 students denied bail and tried next day on violent disorder charges
Following a national demonstration on Wednesday 29th January 2014 at the University of Birmingham, fourteen students were arrested. Twelve students have been bailed until 26th March 2014, after being held in custody for over 24 hours. Two students have been charged with violent disorder and are to appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court at 10:00 today (Friday 31st January 2014). The students are being remanded in custody until their appearance. The charge of violent disorder carries a maximum sentence of 8 years in jail. 

All but 2 of the students released last night have not been charged, although bail conditions imposed include:

- To live and sleep every night at their home address
- Not to enter any University or further education grounds or premises
- Not to meet publicly in groups of 10 or more people without police consent
- Not to associate with the other students arrested

On Wednesday, following a static demonstration and a banner drop from the Joseph Chamberlain clock tower, the protest entered the Great Hall. On leaving peacefully and of their own accord, hundreds of students were kettled in a courtyard outside the Aston Webb Building for between two and four hours, without access to food or water. When students were finally allowed to leave in pairs, West Midlands Police forced all students present their personal details. Some students refused to do so, and were subsequently arrested. In a recent High Court judgment, this action was found to be in breach of human rights legislation.

There is no doubt in our mind that police tactics constituted kettling, and it is expected that protesters will pursue legal action against the police. Commenting on the situation, Simon Natas of ITN solicitors said, ‘‘In the case of Mengesha v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, heard in June last year, the High Court ruled that it was unlawful for the police to require people to provide their names and addresses as a condition of release from a kettle or containment.’ He went on to say he found it ‘very disturbing indeed if any police force was still engaging in this practice.’

Two Birmingham University students have been suspended from their studies because of their involvement in political campaigning. This is a similar draconian and authoritarian action to the recent suspensions at the University of Sussex that were reversed after a national outcry.

Deborah Hermanns, a student with Birmingham Defend Education who was released last night, said: 

“This week we have faced an open attempt to crush dissent on at our university by an unelected clique of managers. They have shown constant intransigence by refusing to negotiate with us all year, instead spending tens of thousands of pounds getting injunctions, increased security and calling in police – that is the only argument they have left.”

A spokesperson for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, said: “We are witnessing a violent and draconian assault on the right to organise. The student movement is back, under a banner of free, democratic education – and the reaction of management and the police proves our point. Anyone who views what has happened as acceptable is not fit to run a university, and we will make it our business to remove them.”

Defend Education Birmingham called the national demonstration on the campus after months of ongoing protests around the country. Students remain in occupation at the University. 

There is a rally outside Birmingham magistrate’s court at 9.30am today, as well as a demonstration at the University of London.

The national meeting student meeting in Birmingham on Wednesday backed a call for coordinated direct action and occupations from 6th February, when staff take strike action.

ENDS
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