Cambridge Dons in Solidarity with Charlie Gilmour

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[Cross-posted from Cambridge Defend Education. The letter also appeared in today’s Guardian.]

As Cambridge University dons, we view with some disquiet the 16 month prison sentence imposed on Cambridge student, Charlie Gilmour, following his arrest during a student fees’ protest last winter. Charlie was charged with violent disorder related to kicking in, though not breaking, a window, shouting disorderly remarks and sitting on a car in a royal convoy. Although much has been made by the media of his disrespect to the Cenotaph we note, without condoning his behaviour, that no one was injured by his activities and that no serious damage to either persons or property took place. Manifestly exceeding a judicious and reasonable punishment for Charlie’s actions, the severity of this sentence seems primarily ‘exemplary’: to warn young people that protest will be criminalised and punished to the maximum permissible extent. Those of us who are concerned to defend the right to dissent and protest in a democratic polity must speak out against the political message embodied by this extraordinary symbolic sentence. Last autumn, our students protested with commitment and passion against the criminal assault on the British public university and we believe that they were right to do so. We must hope that that such worrying travesties of natural justice do not deter people of conscience from speaking up in these difficult times.

Dr Lori Allen
Dr Tarak Barkawi
Mr Bruce Beckles
Dr Duncan Bell
Dr Ben Etherington
Dr Priyamvada Gopal
Dr Michael Hrebeniak
Dr Eivind Kahrs
Dr Shruti Kapila
Professor Maria Manuel Lisboa
Dr Subha Mukherji
Professor Simon Shaffer
Ms Isoble Urquhart

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