|Police violently handling a ULU protester last night|
The ferocious treatment police meted out to non-violent occupiers at the University of London last night demonstrated one thing above all others – the ruling class are scared of students and workers finding common cause and struggling together. Though students across the country are facing severe repression during the current wave of protest, the most speedy and brutal state response has been reserved for those standing in solidarity with rank and file workers in the IWGB’s 3 Cosas campaign. This raises the memory of the “total policing” attack on students marching with the Sparks movement of electricians in 2011.
The assaults on democratic rights at Sussex (where students have been suspended for their protest), and Sheffield (where the uni are reportedly seeking a second injunction on campus protests) must also be condemned. Solidarity actions must be organised. But the events at ULU in particular mark a new stage in the UK’s descent into totalitarian rule.
Without a court injunction or even so much as a warning, and after only a few hours of occupation, the police broke in to the Senate House building, and set about punching, pushing and arresting students. As the University of London Union statement describes:
“This evening, the University of London colluded once again with police to evict occupiers, in a violent attempt to harass and silence dissent on campus. Their actions are a disgrace, and show their disregard for both the welfare of their students and their own university community.
“Hundreds of police descended on the occupation at around 8.30pm and broke into the occupation. We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair. When supporters gathered outside to show support for the occupation, they were beaten back and assaulted. A number of arrests were made, and protesters are demonstrating tonight outside Holborn police station.”
It is likely that the occupation’s solidarity with the successful and inspiring 3 Cosas campaign was a leading factor. The despised Coalition government has every reason to fear the good example of collaboration between workers and students, particularly workers who are organising themselves non-hierarchically, and are forcing employers onto the back foot.
At exactly the point in space and time when students in struggle physically linked up with electricians in struggle two years ago, police unleashed another brutal onslaught, using what had been trailed in the corporate media as “total policing” methods. Amidst the state violence, students and electricians were arrested for carrying tools of their trades – pens and screwdrivers respectively.
Students who want to reach out to workers in struggle need to be aware that there is a possibility of heavy retaliation from a rattled ruling class. But my time at the occupation of Liverpool University’s Irish Studies building yesterday convinced me there’s a growing awareness that precisely such collaborations are essential for the development of each other’s struggles. The uni workers facing attacks on pay and conditions were extremely grateful for the solidarity shown by students, bringing huge donations of food, drink and blankets. Students occupiers also grasp that if there is to be a fight for the defence of not for profit campus life, they will need to have the workers – academic and non-academic – on board too. Whatever happens in
the rest of this week, the past few days need to be a beginning, not an end, to this new solidarity.