Three students charged with violent disorder after Birmingham protest, and could face up to eight years in prison
10 more students released on bail after political protest gets out of hand
Friday 31 January 2014
Three students arrested during Wednesday’s demonstration at Birmingham University have been charged with violent disorder, and could face as long as eight years in prison.
The three, 22-year-old Simon Furse, 30-year-old Panagiodis Theodoropoulos and a third who has refused to give his name, are set to appear before magistrates today.
10 more students, were released on bail late last night, having spent up to 28 hours in police custody, on suspicion of criminal damage, aggravated trespass and assault.
Of the 10, five are men and five women, all aged between 18 and 24 years.
Bail conditions include stipulations that they must sleep every night at their home addresses and must not meet publicly in groups of 10 or more, associate with other arrestees or enter any university or further education grounds.
Wednesday’s demonstration was called by Defend Education Birmingham, a student-led group a range of demands, including that Birmingham University’s staff be paid the Living Wage, and that management lobby the government against tuition fee rises, among other things.
According to students involved in the protest, people were arrested when they refused to “de-mask” and provide police with their details as a condition of exiting a kettle.
In a statement, the group said that “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 that 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 added that he found it “very disturbing indeed if any police force was still engaging in this practice”.
Superintendent Lee Kendrick denied that the police behaved unlawfully, saying: “We strongly refute any suggestions of containing or ‘kettling’ a lawful protest. Police were called to the site by the university as a result of demonstrators breaking into buildings, damaging property and assaulting staff. The suspects were detained by police and required to give their details ahead of the pending criminal investigation – any that refused were arrested.”
Students involved claim to have been held in the kettle for up to four hours, after police broke up a brief occupation of Birmingham’s Aston Webb Hall. Skirmishes with security ensued and the police became involved, allegedly detaining everybody present. Witnesses claim that during this time one student was hospitalised, after suffering a panic attack.
In addition to the arrests, six students have been excluded from Birmingham University for their involvement in political campaigning. Other students, associated with Defend Education Birmingham, are currently occupying a building on campus.
Birmingham’s student union, the Guild, have released a statement distancing themselves from the protests.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the University said: "the university will not tolerate behaviour that causes harm to individuals, damage to property or significant disruption to our university community.”
“The university had no choice but to ask the police for assistance in restoring order and protecting students, staff and university property.”
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