News Politics

36 arrests at ‘Cops Off Campus’ protest

• London Student editor among those held

• Police kettled students and “were brutal”

• UoL granted an injunction banning onsite protest until June 2014

Thirty-four students, including protesters and two journalists, were today kettled and arrested during a demonstration against police presence on university campuses. It followed last night’s violent eviction of students occupying the University of London, which saw seven arrests and accusations of police throwing punches.

At 5.20pm police began arresting two groups of people who had been kettled in by Euston Square tube station for an hour “to prevent a further breach of the peace” and on suspicion of affray. The students, including Oscar Webb, who is this paper’s editor and was photographing the protest, were handcuffed and sent to police stations across south London to be taken into custody.

Two people were also arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer.

One man who was handcuffed and driven away in a police van had a crutch. An eyewitness told London Student: “The man was walking near the police when they pushed him, and as he fell backwards the police kicked away his crutch before jumping on him”. A second eyewitness made the same claim, but London Student was unable to verify whether it was true.

After police stepped away from where the man was handcuffed, blood could be seen on the pavement.

Those arrested were some of the two hundred protesters who took part in a ‘Cops Off Campus’ rally that began at 3pm outside the University of London Union (ULU) building on Malet St. Some protesters, members of the ‘book bloc’, carried homemade shields, while others had red smoke bombs.

Just after 3.30pm, when the protesters had made their way to the Russell Square entrance of the Senate House car park, eleven police riot vans carrying some eighty officers arrived at the scene. UoL denied calling them in.

There were scuffles as demonstrators chanted: “Cops off campus!” and “Scum! Scum!” at the police. A video published by the Guardian appears to show police trying to hit demonstrators with batons through the locked gate to the Senate House car park. Two protesters moved a bench into the middle of the street, blocking police vans.

Officers got into formation and drove the protesters towards the gates of the School of Oriental and African Studies. There, protesters formed a line using their homemade shields and wheelie bins. They then withdrew after it began raining heavily and regrouped outside the ULU building just before 4pm.

A small group of police then arrived at ULU, and were briefly surrounded by the protesters. Reinforcements showed up almost immediately, forcing demonstrators into Gordon Square and the surrounding streets. A police helicopter was circling above.

Some protesters then moved onto Euston Road. Large numbers of police and demonstrators ended up walking in the middle of the street, halting traffic.

At around 4.20pm the protesters were on Gower Street, next to Euston Square tube station. Police contained one group by the University College Hospital and another by the station.

While doing this, one officer told London Student he “hated waiting around” and “enjoyed the disorder side of things”. Another explained the police were there because of “stupid students being idiots”.

Those kettled remained there for an hour until they began to be arrested one by one and put in police vans.

One protester said the police had been “heavy-handed” and were “the cause of the trouble”.

Michael Chessum, president of ULU, said today the police “were brutal”.

He told London Student: “Today there was an unprecedented level of police violence on campus. It was a transparent attempt to assault, intimidate and deflate protest, and it will not work.” He added: “We will only come back stronger.”

Chessum accuses university managers “of colluding throughout with the police” and says they are a “disgrace”.

On Twitter, he called for the resignation of UoL’s senior management team if they did not “condemn the behaviour of the police today and yesterday”.

Yesterday evening saw thirty students occupying the office of UoL’s vice-chancellor and Senate House’s senior management corridor violently evicted by university security. Some fifty police were at hand “to prevent a breach of the peace” and assisted in driving demonstrators off-campus.

One video clip appears to show an officer punching a demonstrator in the face. Other footage appears to show two officers slam a woman to the ground. In total seven people were arrested, police confirmed.

ULU officers said demonstrators “were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair.”

The occupiers had said they would not leave until a list of ten demands was met.

Chris Cobb, UoL’s chief operating officer, said the occupation “was a disgraceful and aggressive act, which placed the safety of our staff at risk.”

The university took out a High Court injunction yesterday that bans “occupational protests” on its site until June 2014. Anyone who disobeys the order “may be found guilty of Contempt of Court”.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said they had “not received any complaints with regards to police action”.

Asked whether UoL condemns the police’s behaviour over the two days and the arrest of journalists, a university spokesperson said: “No.”

They explained: “We are not going to condemn something that is a police decision.”

A repeat of today’s demonstration has been called for tomorrow, and a ‘Cops Off Campus’ national day of action has been planned for next Wednesday at ULU.

Additional reporting and editing by James Burley.

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