Notes from #copsoffcampus


Cops Off CampusStudents protested about police brutality yesterday across the UK.  I joined the demo in central London and found it to be a positive experience for a number of reasons.  Here’s a few thoughts.

  • This current crop of students has learnt quickly from the experiences, successes and failures of the 2010 protests on tuition fees.  It was well organised but fluid in how it was organised and democratic at the point of action.  This was particularly useful and very evident from the meandering impromptu march which took in all the major sights of London, causing major disruption wherever it went but crucially never stopping to get kettled.  The police were led a merry dance.
  • Decisions taken were pragmatic with people discussing options throughout the day.  When the call went up for a march from Malet Street a counter call was made to stay put because this was a cops off campus demonstration so people should stay on campus.  Whilst logical this argument became redundant as thankfully people realised that to get noticed the only option was to take to the streets and cause disruption.
  • The whole process made a mockery of Bernard Hogan-thingy’s “total policing” bullshit.  The fact that the demo was about police brutality meant that they would have looked incredibly stupid to charge in like they have recently.  This was light touch policing (hardly total, Bernie) which meant that the protesters could pretty much go where they liked.  OK, cops came out at Downing Street to protect those massive gates but the protest just moved on to disrupt Victoria instead.
  • This was the first student demo I’d been on since a very dull wet November in 1996.  That day left me with the feeling that the fire had gone out of student activism.  It’s back.  I knew it was but experiencing it has given me a high.  When the youngest adults in our society (and mature students like me, clad in our traditional and finest anarchist tweed) think they can change the world; when they chant for students and workers to unite and fight; when they name the police for killing Mark Duggan and chant it outside the courtroom where it’s being deliberated, then there’s hope.

One final point of personal note is that spontaneous marches lasting several hours are all well and good but I’m not 19 anymore.  I had to leave early due to being about twice that age but I want to thank everyone involved for making the day such a success.

There is now a lot more work to do and it will involve many more days like yesterday.  Our universities, along with our public spaces and much of our private leisure time are being corporatised.  This process will be supported and enforced by a willing police force that wants to prove that it shouldn’t face any further cuts in funding.  The corporatisation of our lives will happen only if we let it.  We must now build a stronger presence and backlash, remembering that yesterday’s fluffy policing is the exception.  We need to move the solidarity messages from unions we received yesterday to mobilising feet on the ground and we need to remember that yesterday is just that.  It’s gone already and we need to move on to the next stage.

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