The protest gathered outside quickly; however the number of police far outnumbered those of students and lecturers who gathered to offer support to those in occupation. The police were in their hundreds; the protesters outside were some 30 to 40 strong. As the time went on, the police were increasingly heavy-handed, aggressive and violent.
Cordons of police officers were created around the building, particularly at the two entrances. For a period of time, they had also barricaded the two entrances; CCTV and police dog unit patrol were also present. At one point, a helicopter was hovering above ground. I drove onto the campus, which took some time as many roads were blocked, and attempted to park near the building where the occupation was taking place, but was aggressively moved on by the private security guards under the watchful eye of about 5 police officers; the private security have now filmed me a number of times, not just today but also during the Easter weekend whilst delivering food to the students, which was in the end denied most of the time.
Four arrests were made today: two women and two men. In the case of one woman,
police aggression and brutality were obvious. The student was surrounded by a number of officers so that it was difficult to film. Whilst surrounding her, those around her could see her being kicked and punched by the police. She was then dragged along the pavement; at one point the dragging was severe enough for both of her shoes to come off. One of the four students was arrested for violent disorder, which carries a custodial sentence of up to 5 years and it is the same charge that saw Alfie Meadows and Zak King being dragged through courts for the past two and a half years. Where is justice in all this? Other three charges appear to be for criminal damage. It is not clear at this stage whether these charges related to today only, or last week, too. First information that has come in from the legal observers who were on campus and witnesses, suggests that the charges related to today. The four students were then taken into vans and driven off to one of the Brighton police stations. Now, they face hours and hours of waiting in a police cell and consequently further intimidation.
The small demonstration on campus continued for another 45 minutes marching through campus, chanting slogans and stopping outside Sussex House – a symbolic representation of the management’s HQ. As was the case earlier in the week, the police guarded the entrance heavily; what did they think was going to happen? The students sat down and broke into a song; the police certainly did not expect to witness guitar playing, but I think that it drew a grudging smile out of a couple of those sad individuals. The filming by the police was relentless and continuous all through the day until the students’ meeting out of which one thing was certain: we will not rest until we reclaim back our university!
And so, rather predictably, the police were determined today to threat and intimidate these inspirational, brilliant people who have joined with other workers of their university
to fight and resist privatisation. So, despite no resistance to the police during eviction, the police were determined to bring at least some charges and, as we have witnessed many times before during protests and occupations, in order to intimidate, prosecute and victimise, all as deterrents from any further protest in opposition to the privatisation agenda. It is also likely that the prosecution will not stop there; we also know from experience that students are likely to face a form of disciplinary action from the University itself.
So, the students are angry; we should all be angry. We should be angry that the University management has treated its students in this way, that it has used private security guards and the police to silence the protesters; that it didn’t have the decency today, or any other day during the occupation, to address its students. So, we shall not be silenced; we shall not allow victimisation and criminalisation of protest on our campuses or on our streets – we have to stand in solidarity with the four who have been arrested and not rest until they get justice. No justice, no peace!
Written By Jelena Timotijevic, Defend the Right to Protest Convenor and Brighton University Lecturer.