Hundreds sign petition against ‘draconian’ protest ban

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition against a ban on protesting at the University of London

December 9, 2013

Under the terms of an injunction obtained by the university on 4 December, students who hold sit-in protests in an area in Holborn, central London, including the Senate House, the student union building, and the buildings of Soas and Birkbeck, can be imprisoned.

Those breaking the ban on “occupational protest”, which is valid for the next six months, would be in contempt of court.

The order was obtained by the university after a sit-in protest at its Senate House headquarters on 4 and 5 December, which ended in violent scenes and the arrest of 41 people.

Students, who are calling for improved sick pay and holiday pay for cleaners among other demands, also clashed with police at a demonstration on 5 December, in which they called for “cops off campus”.

University of London Union president Michael Chessum called the court order a “draconian” reaction and “a sign that the university had lost the argument”.

In an online petition, more than 1,200 people said they “unreservedly condemn the escalating use of police against peaceful protests at the University of London”.

Accusing the university of “attempting to suppress dissent”, the petition criticises the “blanket injunction brought by the UoL against demonstrations or occupations across their many campuses”.
“We demand an immediate repudiation of the injunction by UoL management, no more police on campus, and for UoL Management to engage with students and staff about the concerns that led to the protests in the first place,” the petition says.

However, Chris Cobb, chief operating officer at the University of London said the injunction was a “regrettable but necessary step” to prevent further “violent and intimidating behaviour that we have seen by protesters at Senate House recently”.

However, students have accused police and university security staff of heavy-handed tactics, saying police behaviour in dispersing the protest was “at a level of violence beyond anything I’d ever seen before”.

One video clip shows a police officer apparently punching a protestor twice in the face, knocking him to the ground.

The union is compiling evidence with a view to making complaints, Mr Chessum said.

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