The Students’ Union offers it’s support to Alfie Meadows, a Middlesex University student seriously injured by the police during student protests in 2010, as his trial for ‘violent disorder’ gets underway at Woolwich Crown Court.
On the 9 December 2010, students from across the country demonstrated outside parliament against the proposals for the introduction of £9,000 a year tuition fees. Some additionally came to protest against the cuts facing their institutions, including Alfie Meadows, who was opposing the closure of the Philosophy Department at Middlesex University. Many of the policies and cuts that tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against on that day have since come into effect.
At that demonstration Alfie was struck on the head with a police baton and required life-saving emergency brain surgery. The impact that day has had on his life since has been extraordinary, and the incident has since been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Despite all of this, Alfie was charged with violent disorder. In April 2012 Jurors failed to reach a verdict in Alfie’s case, whilst three of his co-defendants were cleared. He faces retrial today (29 October) at Woolwich Crown Court.
Alfie and his family have received a large amount of support from students, NUS, trade unions, MPs and the general public, including Sussex Students’ Union trustee Sally Hunt. This is a reassuring testimony to their continuing efforts to clear his name and to defend the right to protest, whilst at the same time condemning the antagonising police tactics that has been witnessed on student demonstrations in the last couple of years.
Laim Burns, NUS President, said: “NUS believes that the fact Alfie Meadows will face a retrial for violent disorder is clearly an unjust decision. Alfie’s treatment at the hands of the police was disgraceful, not only did he receive life threatening injuries but now has to put his life on hold for another year.”
Alfie’s mother, University lecturer Susan Matthews, also visited Sussex campus two weeks ago to talk about Alfie’s case and her subsequent involvement in the Defend the Right to Protest campaign following her experiences and review of the charges being brought against him.
The Students’ Union recognises that protest is a necessary action in order to stop the cuts to education, and strongly supports the right to protest. At an Emergency Members Meeting in November 2011, called following the charges brought against a Sussex student, the Students’ Union also committed to “stand in solidarity with… all other students facing similar charges and sentences”.
We fully support the call for all charges against Alfie to be dropped immediately. We also call for an end to kettling and use of all other crowd control tactics that intimidate and threaten the right to protest.