Protest points

April 11, 2013

Julian Newman accuses me of being unable to “distinguish between the justice of a cause and the criminality of resorting to violence in the course of that protest” (Letters, “Just cause, unjust method”, 4 April).

It is a pity that he did not take the care to read the salient sentence in my feature - “It goes without saying that I am not defending acts of violence by students or anyone else” - or to look at the blog that I wrote the morning after the student demonstration of 10 November 2010. I will quote it for his benefit: “we cannot take the moral high ground in an argument about the value of education and then make our point by putting a boot through a plate glass window. To paraphrase Michael Servetus, to break a window does not defend an idea, it just breaks a window. One wins arguments by having better arguments, not by throwing fire extinguishers from roofs.”

The point of the article “Courage and convictions” (21 March) was that the heightened charge of violent disorder has been used systematically to prosecute minor, non-violent acts by tuition fees protesters. This is why so many of the prosecutions have failed.

Martin McQuillan
Dean of arts and social sciences
Kingston University, London

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