Have UCL banned free speech too?

The #Copsoffcampus march and an unexpected interchange with UCL security services
Will Clark

Cops off campus. Students too?

Attached to the 4th December Court Injunction that bans occupational protest in and around Senate House, University of London, is an ancient and official-looking map of the site. It is colourless, except for a threatening red line running around an arbitrary perimeter, drawn by some long arms and ‘law’.

The threat is simple: prison or fines for those who dare cross the line and shout about it. But that didn’t stop thousands turning out yesterday for the ‘Cops off Campus’ march, a demonstration to show that it will take much more than these disproportionate legal penalties to silence student voices.

At 2pm the excitement began; a relaxed but determined crowd started to form outside University of London Union on Malet Street. Different pockets of people listened to impromptu speeches on pop-up platforms, gathered round a rowdy band of drummers or watched as a troupe of clowns did some weird stuff in a wheely bin.

Police violence was the hot topic on everyone’s lips, as we wondered whether the fun festival vibes would somehow turn nasty. There seemed to be an acceptance that this was a possibility, and one beyond our control, as helpers distributed little cards with legal advice in the event of arrest printed on them.

Before long, a real mass of thousands had assembled and started to make its way down towards the Senate House building. Following the route of the red line, the crowd snaked onto Montague Place and then Russell Square, where two protestors were struggling with a banner halfway up a tree.

At around 3.30pm we finally moved across the red line and came to a halt in front of the School of Oriental and African Studies which sits in the shadow of the Senate House tower. Placards and chants punctured the freezing, early-evening air. There were calls for the right to protest, for students and workers to unite and fight, for justice at the inquest into the death of Mark Duggan, and for the police to f*** off. The latter was perhaps more of a general point, given that we hadn’t seen any police all afternoon.

We heard that some had moved on to march into central London, but my friends and I stayed on campus until things began to tail off, then made our way back to UCL. We wondered whether the lack of police presence signalled that they were on the back foot after allegations of violence last week.

We also discussed the position of the university management. This protest movement isn’t going away, so surely they won’t be able to sustain their reactionary court order that seeks to limit the democratic freedoms that they ought to protect, will they? All the action we had taken part in had been overwhelmingly positive. We were looking forward to keeping up the pressure and really hopeful for a repeal of the ban in the near-future.

Any optimism in the air, however, was quickly vacuumed away when security guards told me I was not allowed to bring my placard onto the UCL campus. All materials connected with the day’s protest had been banned and security at the gates had been doubled. Feeling exasperated, we made our way to the security office and asked if we could speak with the person responsible for the ban. The woman we spoke to refused to let us know where this figure of authority was, or when they would return. She asked in frustration ‘Why are you questioning our security!?’.

For now we’ve had to settle with sending an email to the UCL security manager. Where did the authority for this decision come from, and when was it taken? How long is it supposed to continue for? And, most importantly, on what grounds can you justify the banning of anything that proves the students actually give a shit and won’t let bosses get away with undemocratic and unfair policies?

What’s next? No posters in the union? Shut down the yoga society because it’s got a couple of radicals stretching away in the corner? We’ve yet to receive a response. Watch this space.

Press Release 2: Human Rights Students’ Open Letter to University of London: “Lift Protest Ban”

11th December 2013

Human Rights Students’ Open Letter to University of London: “Lift Protest Ban”

Contact:
Milja.Komulainen.12@ucl.ac.uk
Janey.Stephenson.12@ucl.ac.uk
Mark.Arnold.12@ucl.ac.uk
R.Nye.12@ucl.ac.uk

LONDON – Human Rights Students from UCL (University College London) have written an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer of the University of London to request they take action to revoke a court order against student protests on University of London grounds.

Last week, the University of London obtained a court order that bans all “occupational protests” on areas of its campus until June 2014. Anyone who breaches the order can be charged with contempt of court.

On 10 December, which is internationally recognised as Human Rights Day, the signatories of the open letter asked that the University of London consider the impact of its decision on the democratic rights of its students (such as the rights to ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of assembly and association’ that are included in the European Convention on Human Rights), and supports their right to peacefully protest.

The letter suggests that the University should engage in ‘meaningful and respectful dialogue with student-led campaigns, instead of threatening peaceful protestors with legal action’.

Amongst others, the University of London represents University College London, the London School of Economics, the School of Oriental and African Studies and Birkbeck College. All of these institutions offer courses in the study of human rights.

The letter, originally signed by 53 UCL Human Rights students, quickly attracted over 100 solidarity signatures of students and academics from other Universities. Amongst them is Paul Gready, a human rights practitioner and Director of the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York. The letter remains open for additional signatures to be added in solidarity over the coming days.

Quotes:

Paul Gready, Director for the Centre for Applied Human Rights: “The very essence of a university is that it should inspire critical thinking, debate and peaceful protest. The right to peaceful demonstration is a basic human right that should only be curtailed in very particular and clearly argued circumstances – it is profoundly disappointing that these conditions have not been met in this case.”

Aurora Percannella, 24, UCL student: “I signed this letter because universities need to start behaving like democratic educational establishments again, rather than private entities that feel separate from the basic rules governing society”

Laura O’Shea, 22, former University of York student: “University is a place for encouraging debate, not repressing ideas.”

Nick McKenzie, 25, UCL student: “Watching non-violent protestors being kettled into police vans was an unforgivable fall from grace from an institution established to promote free thought and education for all”

Mark Arnold, 25, UCL student: “University buildings are not straightforwardly private property; students are members of the university community and have a right to use the buildings.”

 

#copsoffcampus

Students are fully within their rights to peacefully protest. Arbitrary use of force by the police is a rights violation.

Considering the recent allegations of police violence against peaceful student protests on the University of London campus, we support the #copsoffcampus demonstration taking place today, on the 11th of December at 2pm.

If you are in London, show solidarity by attending.

https://www.facebook.com/events/565580810188930/?ref=22

An Open Letter from Human Rights students to the University of London

10th of December 2013: Human Rights Day

Dear Vice-Chancellor Adrian Smith and Chief Operating Officer Chris Cobb,

On International Human Rights day, as recent alumni and current students of the University of London, we would like to express our deep concern regarding the court order, obtained on the 4th of December, banning occupational protests in parts of the University of London’s Holborn campus. We believe that this court order restricts students’ right to peaceful protest and contradicts the spirit of the University of London’s own human rights curriculum.

We chose to come to the University of London, a world-leading academic institution, to study a Masters degree in human rights. As the University of London offers human rights courses in four of its major colleges, we are deeply disturbed by the institution’s decision to curtail the democratic rights of its students on campus.

The court order threatens students with imprisonment or fines for all occupational protests taking place in certain areas of the University of London campus during the next six months. We believe that this undermines students’ rights to freedom of assembly and expression, and restricts their ability to engage in critical dialogue with the University of London community, as well as with wider society.

The University of London has stated that it will not stop peaceful protests from taking place, despite imposing a ban on all occupational protests in some parts of its campus. If the University does intend to permit all peaceful protests taking place during the next six months, it is not clear why the obtained court order is necessary. We are concerned that the ban will act as a limitation and deterrent for all protests, including those that do not involve occupation.

We acknowledge that, should a student behave violently during a protest, they may face legal consequences. However, imposing a ban on all occupational protests in certain areas of the University campus is an entirely disproportionate response. The University of London ought to engage in meaningful and respectful dialogue with student-led campaigns instead of threatening peaceful protestors with legal action.

Furthermore, we are highly concerned regarding the alleged police violence against student protestors at the University of London campus in the first week of December. An immediate, impartial and thorough investigation should be conducted into these allegations.

In summary, the University of London’s response to recent student protests has been disproportionate and an alarming curtailment of students’ democratic rights and freedoms. We urge you to immediately call on the High Court of Justice to revoke the order restricting students’ ability to protest. The University of London must also offer its full support to investigations into alleged police violence against student protestors.

Universities ought to be nuclei of societal dialogue, as well as progressive political thought and action. Under no circumstances should they repress peaceful demonstrations. We stand in solidarity with all students of the University who exercise their right to peaceful protest, and denounce all attempts to curtail this right.

We ask you to ensure that the University of London acts in accordance with the essential spirit of human rights, including the rights to assembly and expression, the theory and practice of which are taught in the lecture theatres and rooms of your own institutions.

Thank you for your attention on this urgent matter.

Yours Sincerely,

Students of the MA Human Rights Course
School of Public Policy, UCL

1. Rachel Nye, UCL

2. Janey Stephenson, UCL

3. Shirley van der Maarel, UCL

4. Mark Arnold, UCL

5. Milja Komulainen, UCL

6. Will Clark, UCL

7. Hana Farhat, UCL

8. Aoife Ní Chorcoráin, UCL

9. Jennifer Higgins, UCL

10. Aurora Percanella, UCL

11. Katherine Wall, UCL

12. Jelmarie Rodriquez, UCL

13. Francisca Stewart, UCL

14. Beth McManus, UCL

15. Erin Mee, UCL

16. Cem Gurkan, UCL

17. Sebastian Smart, UCL

18. Shae Kay, UCL

19. Priya Agarwal-Harding, UCL

20. Flávia Melo, UCL

21. Janine Ensing, UCL

22. Gamze Şanlı, UCL

23. Nadia Noor, UCL

24. Dorothea Schoppek, UCL

25. Nick McKenzie, UCL

26. Sarfraz Khan Virk, UCL

27. Naba al-Nahi, UCL

28. Udit Bhatia, UCL

29. Sara Abed, UCL

30. Joe Fitzpatrick, UCL

31. Panayiota Tamazou, UCL

32. Nina Nilofar, UCL

33. Sally Prestt, UCL

34. Upjeet Kaur, UCL

35. Jessica Ford, UCL

36. Martina Tussi, UCL

37. Isobel Aiken, UCL

38. Ruth Mair, UCL

39. Siobhán Margolis, UCL

40. Elly Thomas, UCL

41. Ruth Jacob, UCL

42. James Ayre, UCL

43. Rachel Fox, UCL

44. Matt Waller, UCL

45. Rasha Sharkia, UCL

46. Harriet Douglas, UCL

47. Qadeer Abdilleh, UCL

48. Verde d’Aquino, UCL

49. Sabrina Pulcyn, UCL

50. S. Mark Edwards, UCL

51. Sarah Shin, UCL

52. Erica Murphy, UCL

53. Michael Wilkes, UCL

54. Virginia Fletcher, UCL

55. Margherita Gabriele, UCL

56. Juned Mehrajul Islam, UCL

57. Sabrina Pulcyn, UCL

In Solidarity

1. Gordon Maloney, President of NUS Scotland

2. Molly Cooper, Unison Service Group

3. Paul Gready, Director, CAHR University of York

4. Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Director of the UCL Institute for Human Rights

5. Hannah Webb, UCLU External Affairs and Campaigns Officer

6. Sam Dathi, solicitor and LLM Human Rights Law SOAS

7. Jongduk Jung, Msc International Public Policy, UCL

8. Guy Aitchison, Political Science PhD (c), Teaching Assistant, MA Human Rights, UCL

9. Harkirit Boparai, University of York

10. Olivia Chatfield, YMCA George Williams College

11. Makoto Kawaguchi, King’s College London

12. Aaro Häkkinen, University of Helsinki

13. Emma Åman, University of Helsinki

14. Maria Talvela, University of Helsinki

15. Abisola Barber, UCL

16. David Elliott, University of York

17. Hanna Moy, University of Amsterdam

18. Sarah Watson, University of Amsterdam

19. Alexander Partridge, UCL

20. Tom Dillon, UCL

21. Yassin Benserghin, UCL

22. Matthew Burnett-Stuart, MA Human Rights Law SOAS

23. Paolo Morini, PhD(c), UCL School of Public Policy

24. Shilpa Jindia, openDemocracy

25. James Woollard, UCL

26. Florence Lucy Hodgson, Ruskin College, Oxford

27. Ceri Gibbons, Birkbeck

28. Anne Morley Butler, University of Freiburg

29. James Arnold, PhD Candidate in Philosophy, KCL

30. Chris Little, School of Public Policy, UCL (Alumnus)

31. Khalid Omar, SOAS

32. David Krivanek, LSE

33. Rana Nessim, openDemocracy

34. Tom Cowan, openDemocracy

35. Laura O’Shea, University of York

36. Thomas Rutter

37. Tim Jeeves, Lancaster University

38. Matthew Evans, University of York

39. Sarah Jilani, University of Oxford

40. Jimmy Packham,  University of Bristol

41. Patricia Bartley, University of York

42. Louise Livesey, Programme Co-ordinator & Tutor, Ruskin College Oxford

43. Matthew Corr, University of Cambridge and Royal Holloway

44. Joshua Hardie

45. Simina Ghit, Sciences Po

46. Anna Bernard, Lecturer, Kings College London

47. Saara Manelius, University of Turku, Finland

48. Nell Beecham, PhD candidate, London School of Economics

49. Scott Halliday, University of York

50. Verity McCrum, UCL

51. Mollie Liesner, University of Cambridge

52. Emily Shepherd, Plymouth College of Art

53. Marta Ghittoni, University of York

54. Laura Kumpuniemi, University of York

55. José Antonio Gutiérrez, University College Dublin

56. Catrin Wayland, University of York

57. William Segal, University of Plymouth

58. Ammie El-Atar, Birkbeck College

59. Eppie Leishman, University of York

60. Achim Wolf, PhD, University of Oxford

61. Jolijn van Hal, UCL

62. Daniel Gjokjeski, UCL

63. Eddie Jacobs, UCL

64. Rafi Latif, UCL

65.  Kris Tina, UCL

66. Liisi Hakalisto, University of Aberdeen

67. Jorge Abraham del Valle Márguez, UCL alumnus

68. Alison Benson, Staffordshire Univeristy, UCL alumna

69. Charlotte Goodhart, UCL

70. Sabbir Malik, UCL

71. Catherine O’Riordan, UCL

72. Eloise Hammond, UCL School of Humanities & Social Science (Alumni)

73. Bob Hughes, University of York student alumna and ex Union Officer

74. Miranda Fay Thomas, Kings College London

75. Georgia Horgan, Glasgow School of Art

76. Kallum Taylor, President of YUSU (York University Students’ Union)

77.Edward Greenwood, University of York

78. Jemima Busby, University of York

79. Anna Harding, UCL

80. Emma Loft, University of York

81. Laura Griffin, University of York

82. Lauren Cowling, University of York

83. Elvin S. Vural, MSc, University College London

84. Kristina Lunz, UCL

85. Indrani Sigamany, Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York

86. Elizabeth Heckenberg, Swinburne University of Technology

87. Kathryn Wood, UCL

88. Alessandra Berti, University of Bristol Students’ Union

89. George Lane, University of York

90. Shadreck Mwale, University of Sussex

91. Thom May, University of Cambridge

92. Sarah Barker, University of York Graduate

93. Emily Moore, Birkbeck, University Of London

94. Mariel Stringer-Fehlow, BPP Law School

95. Jen Wilkins, UCL

96. Daniel Jacob, UCL

97. Lotte van Buuren, UCL

98. Fiona McCabe, UCL

99. Vanessa Sanda Van-Dunem, UCL

100. Nathalie Dijkman, MSc Human Rights, LSE

101. Sam Maguire, University of York

102. Niheer Dasandi, Dept. Political Science, UCL

103.George Evans, Kings College London

104. Kenta Sekine, Goldsmiths UoL

105. Elisabeth Davies, University of York

106. Malte Werner, MSc Human Rights, LSE

107. Emma Langley, Birkbeck

108. Thomas Ron, University of York

109. Alex Bennett, University of York

110. Max Benwell, City University, University of London

111. Natasha Mavronicola, PhD University of Cambridge and Lecturer in Law at Queen’s University Belfast

112. Jamie Chatfield, University of York

113. Andreas Gabrielsen, SOAS

114. Michael Wilkins, University of York

115. Sybil Wood

116. Marit Erdal, University of York

117. Victoria West, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

118. Clare Duffy, MSc Human Rights, LSE

119. Zara Daswani, University of York

120. Tony Brown, Branch Secretary, UCL University and College Union

121. Mark Rowland, University of London graduate

122. Christine Saunders, University of York

123. Rosie Simsek, University of the Arts London

124. Jassi Sandhar, LLM Human Rights, Birkbeck College

125. Nicholas Bishop, SOAS

126. Marta Owczarek, MA Gender Studies, UCL

127. Kelly McBride, President, University of Sussex Students’ Union

129.Eija Tanninen, Finland

130. Annamari Oittinen, University of Helsinki, Finland

131. Alistair Woods, UCL

132. Laetitia Sanchex Incera, UCL

133. Nathalie Galfrascoli, UCL

134. Eleanor Farrow, University of York

135. Dorothea Ross, University of Aberdeen

136. Giulia Cibotti, SOAS

137. Jacob Bates-Firth, Goldsmiths

138. Emily Holliday, Operations Officer, University of Sussex Students’ Union

140. David Watt, SOAS

(If you wish to add your name, please let us know in the comment boxes below)

Press Release: ‘Lift protest ban,’ Human Rights students tell University of London

10th December 2013 (Human Rights Day)
Embargoed until 12:00pm

Contact:

Milja.Komulainen.12@ucl.ac.uk
Janey.Stephenson.12@ucl.ac.uk
Mark.Arnold.12@ucl.ac.uk
R.Nye.12@ucl.ac.uk

LONDON, 12:00pm – Human Rights Students from UCL (University College London) have written an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer of the University of London to request they take action to revoke a court order against student protests on University of London grounds.

Last week, the University of London obtained a court order that bans all “occupational protests” on areas of its campus until June 2014. Anyone who breaches the order can be charged with contempt of court.

On 10 December, which is internationally recognised as Human Rights Day, the signatories of the open letter ask that the University of London consider the impact of its decision on the democratic rights of its students (such as the rights to ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of assembly and association’ that are included in the European Convention on Human Rights), and support their right to peacefully protest.

The letter also suggests that the University should engage in ‘meaningful and respectful dialogue with student-led campaigns, instead of threatening peaceful protestors with legal action’.

Amongst others, the University of London represents University College London, the London School of Economics, the School of Oriental and African Studies and Birkbeck College. All of these institutions offer courses in the study of human rights.

The letter has attracted the support of individuals from other Universities, and will remain open for additional signatures (not restricted to University of London) to be added in solidarity over the coming days.

Quotes:

Aurora Percannella, 24, UCL student: “I signed this letter because universities need to start behaving like democratic educational establishments again, rather than private entities that feel separate from the basic rules governing society”

Laura O’Shea, 22, former University of York student: “University is a place for encouraging debate, not repressing ideas.”

Nick McKenzie, 25, UCL student: “Watching non-violent protestors being kettled into police vans was an unforgivable fall from grace from an institution established to promote free thought and education for all”

Mark Arnold, 25, UCL student: “University buildings are not straightforwardly private property; students are members of the university community and have a right to use the buildings.”

Original court hearing:

http://www.london.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/news_events/Senate_House_-_Sealed_Injuction__attaching_plan_.pdf

Why we are doing this

On Human Rights Day 2013, we (a group of current and former Human Rights students from UCL) are writing to the University of London, asking the Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer to consider the impact of the recent protest ban on the democratic rights of its students.

The democratic rights to ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of assembly and association’ are enshrined in Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the light of recent protests at the University of London, where student protestors were calling for the labour rights of university cleaners and an end to the commercialisation of educational establishments, we believe a ban on occupational protests is disproportionate.

We do not believe that universities are solely the property of their management. Without students, lecturers and support staff, there would be no university.

Anyone who would like to sign the letter in solidarity with us is welcome to add their name via the comment feature at the bottom of this page.

Further information on the protest ban:

http://www.channel4.com/news/university-of-london-student-protest-ban-senate-house-occupy

http://www.london.ac.uk/fileadmin/documents/news_events/Senate_House_-_Sealed_Injuction__attaching_plan_.pdf