On the 29th of January at Birmingham University, student activists demonstrated against the recent education funding cuts, fee hikes, vast inequalities in the wages of staff, the marketisation of education, and the increasing level police brutality being imposed on student dissent.
Following this demonstration, our complaints have only been re-confirmed by the actions of the University of Birmingham and the West Midland Police.
After the close of a peaceful demonstration, students leaving the protest of their own volition were kettled in a courtyard outside the Aston Webb building for four hours, without access to food, water or toilet facilities. Furthermore, when a student was found collapsed on the ground due to a pre-existing medical condition, police refused to allow them out of the kettle, even denying ambulance access. When students were permitted to leave West Midlands Police demanded that all students provide them with their personal details. Fourteen students who refused to do so were arrested.
The arrested students were held for over 24 hours, most arrested with little to no evidence for any malign behaviour, beyond wishing to withhold their identities. Two arrested students, who were also studying at Birmingham University have also been suspended pending disciplinaries. It has also been reported that some arrested students were subject to unwarranted and humiliating strip searches, as well as having personal possessions (including mobile phones and tablets) confiscated from them.
The bail conditions of one arrestee, which have been made public, are as follows:
“1) To live and sleep each night at [one’s own registered address] Birmingham, and present yourself to a police officer on request
2) Not to enter any University or Further Education premises
3) Not to congregate in a group of more than ten people without written permission from West Midlands Police
4) Not to associate with [any other arrestees]” 1
These bail conditions are not an attempt to protect students; they are to protect a draconian University management from listening to dissenting voices. This is a transparent attempt to silence, isolate and intimidate student activists by a privileged few.Universities are supposed to represent enlightenment through freedom of thought, and progression though the equal exchange of ideas. Birmingham University has acted in a way which completely opposes this, by shutting down the voices of others and refusing to engage with students’ concerns with the education system that we all benefit from.
In short: Edinburgh University Socialist Society wholly condemns the anti-democratic and threatening tactics which Birmingham University have employed in this situation – and we offer solidarity to all of those arrested, suspended, and facing absurd and authoritarian bail conditions.
A petition demanding the reinstatement of those suspended is available here.