Several hundred students at SOAS yesterday protested against a visit by the Universities minister, David Willets. The minister was scheduled to speak at the Brunei Gallery on SOAS campus just a week after the student union passed a motion of no confidence in him.
The demonstration began peacefully outside the main entrance of the gallery however Willets was smuggled in through the back of the building. Around 30 protestors gained entrance to the building and quickly encountered a heavy-handed response from both police and private security. “Several people were thrown to the floor and I was personally thrown down the stairs,” said vice president of the University College London Union Sean Rillo Raczka. A student was seen bleeding from the head and many were injured as police used punches and batons to break up the demonstration. One student present said “It’s disgusting, as students we should have a right to feel safe here on our own campus! The protest was peaceful and lively and the response of police was totally disproportionate.”
During the attack, police arrested six activists and held them at Holborn police station. About 75 protesters, including the SOAS samba band, relocated to the station, holding a sit-in outside the doors. While the police imposed a “Section 14” (meaning protesters could be arrested without warning if they do not disperse) and deployed dogs, protesters remained defiantly outside until 11.30pm.
We see an esculation of political policing as students are once again targeted with arrests and violence for voicing any oppostion to government policy and mounting a defence of their education. The Really Open University supports these actions against David Willets and police violence and extend solidarity to those arrested.