More than 100 academics and campus staff have criticised the arrest of Michael Chessum, president of the University of London Union, as they prepare for another protest over the ULU’s closure.
In an open letter in this week’s Times Higher Education, staff from the sector’s three largest unions – the University and College Union, Unison and Unite – “unreservedly condemn” the arrest of Mr Chessum on 14 November after a Save ULU rally the day before.
The left-wing union head was held under Section 11 of the Public Order Act after allegedly failing to notify police in advance of the protest.
Police have confirmed that 50 officers attended the event, which the University of London claimed attracted only 70 protesters. The police presence was designed to “intimidate”, Dan Cooper, the ULU’s vice-president, told the London Student newspaper, with some protesters “dragged to the floor…punched…and kicked”.
The university’s decision to film the protest was also criticised.
Mr Chessum was taken to Holborn Police Station and later released on bail conditions that bar him from protesting within half a mile of any university.
A protest, scheduled to take place in Bloomsbury on 29 November, will “highlight concerns over restrictions over the right to protest”, as well as the ULU’s impending closure at the end of the academic year.
The university rejects “as completely wrong and somewhat naive” claims that it conspired with police to have Mr Chessum arrested. In a “myth-busting” statement, it says it supports “safe, legitimate protest”, but claims that the ULU’s recent demonstrations have led to violence.
As ULU officials did not attend a meeting with university staff the day before the protest, the institution had “no choice but to continue to enforce the designated zones for safe protest”, it adds.