Second wave of mass student demonstrations planned in London

Student protest movement swells following accusations of police brutality

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The Independent Online

Student protests which saw 41 arrests last week are set to continue despite injunctions, in a movement emboldened by claims of police violence and heavy-handedness from the University of London.

A so-called “national day of action” has been called for this Wednesday, in a demonstration that could see thousands of students from all over the UK converge on central London.

And on Friday, UoL obtained an injunction banning its students from protesting on campus for six months, following two days of unrest.

Organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, an umbrella organisation of student protest groups, the “#copsoffcampus” event on Facebook currently has more than 2,000 confirmed attendees – numbers which would see it dwarf prior protests

On Facebook, the description of the event says “universities across the country have been subject to unprecedented levels of violence from the police, targeting a resurgent wave of activism against the privatisation of the university system.

“Across the country, students are initiating a vibrant, popular, winnable fight for democratic and public universities, free from exploitation and repression. We cannot be beaten if we stand together.”

UoL’s injunction states that “students have no right to conduct a ‘sit-in’ or take possession of any areas of the campus".

It was granted on Thursday and covers the university’s headquarters at Senate House, the University of London Union offices, the Warburg Institute, Brunei Gallery and main buildings of neighbouring Birkbeck College and the School of Oriental and African Studies.

The current wave of unrest in London was sparked last Wednesday, after police and university security broke up a sit-in at Senate House, UoL’s central London headquarters. Evicted students claimed police punched them and pulled some of them by their hair, while in the ensuing fracas, five students were arrested as footage emerged of a police officer appearing to punch a protester who fell to the ground.

At a larger protest a day later, featuring as many as 300 students, another 36 arrests were made as the two sides clashed.

A spokesman for the university said: “We regard the injunction as a regrettable but necessary step to prevent further occupations of Senate House and other university buildings in Bloomsbury.

“Wednesday’s incursion was the last straw in a series of aggressive and intimidatory acts by student protesters over the past year which have seen our staff threatened, abused and in some cases injured.”

Rachel Wenstone, a vice-president at the NUS, said: “We were absolutely appalled by the handling of student protesters we have seen in both Sussex and London in recent days.

“Peaceful protest and occupation is part of the history of the student movement and one we are very proud of. They are legitimate tactics, enshrined in our right to protest and are available to students when there is no other way to get their voices heard.”

Police have confirmed that one of the arrests was made for assault and one for obstruction of officers. A spokesman said that no complaints had been made about officers’ actions at the protests.