At the turn of 2013, no one could have guessed the start of the year would result in such a harsh U-Turn in the UK’s public conscience. No longer was the forced Olympic and Jubilee celebrations enough to numb the public into a state of self-satisfied inertia, 2013 became the year of panic, protests and heavy handed policing. A year on, Pandeia explores how each new month brought more instances of disturbances and unrest in this 2013 Year in Review.
January 2013 – Isle of Man tuition fees, Oxford students protest Assange visit.
At the beginning of last year, a decision to introduce tuition fees for students from the Isle of Man was met with considerable protests. Three demonstrations took place in front of the Manx parliament, including an 800 signature strong petition. As reported in IOM Today, the group ‘Say No to Manx Tuition Fees’ helped organize the protest, the efforts ultimately leading to a postponement of the policy. The fees faced by Manx students would be a minimum of £2,500
Via: Prospect Isle of Man https://www.facebook.com/IOMProspect
Meanwhile, a group of students from Oxford University opposed a presentation via video-link of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on their campus to give a speech to students.
Julian Assange will be speaking at the Oxford Union on 23rd January. WomCam will be protesting. More details to come; get involved.
— OUSUWomen’sCampaign (@womcam) January 9, 2013
As reported in The Oxford Student the speech was to be broadcast at the Oxford Union. Wadham SU passed a statement of disapproval with its women’s officer claiming Assange’s address would be “disrespectful to survivors of rape and sexual assault.” The Oxford Union defended the decision and encouraged people to use the question and answer session to put the allegations to Mr Assange. However, Tom Rutland, President of the Oxford University Students’ Union stood in criticism of the move.
As reported in the independent Oxford student paper Cherwell, up to 70 protesters amassed outside the union during the speech given by Assange. The paper also reported that Assange criticised a film ‘The Fifth Estate’ which he claimed was “a lie upon a lie.”
It was reported that, despite this, Assange faced a number of probing questions about his designation as a fugitive. Assange is currently within the Ecuadorian embassy and faces extradition to Sweden to face charges for rape.
JA in response to student – I won’t go back to Sweden to face trial because they won’t agree not to extradite me to USA
— Oxford Union (@OxfordUnion) January 23, 2013
February 2013 – Sussex students start occupation against privatisation
In February, a group of students at Sussex University began a long-term occupation of a university building to protest the privatisation of services at the university.
— occupy_sussex (@occupy_sussex) February 12, 2013
Hundreds of protesters camped out in the Bramber House building on the university campus. As reported in The Badger, the campaign attracted national media attention and was supported by a number of high profile names, including commentator Owen Jones.
This protest would continue for some time and later in the year would lead to an escalation in hostilities between students and university authorities.
March 2013 – Final trial of students arrested during 2010 protests. Acquittal of Alfie Meadows whose skull was allegedly fractured by a police baton during 2010 protests.
Alfie Meadows, a student who required emergency surgery after the 2010 protests against tuition fees was found not guilty of violent disorder last March.
just saw this from Thursday – cop literally beating back the Spectre of Marx pic.twitter.com/t93H5zcrOC
— David Graeber (@davidgraeber) December 11, 2013
Meadows, who was a student at Middlesex University at the time of the protest, required surgery for a fractured skull after being allegedly bludgeoned by a police baton. Meadows also pledged to continue legal action against the Metropolitan Police which was postponed while he fought the charges.
In the same trial, fellow student Zak King was also found to be innocent of charges levied against him by police.
April 2013 – Four people arrested during Sussex student occupation.
As reported in The Badger, four students were arrested in April during an eviction of protesters occupying a university building, after weeks of ongoing protest.
Today marked the end of the Occupation at Sussex, at the hands of police and bailiffs. However, the campaign continues and the fight goes on
— occupy_sussex (@occupy_sussex) April 2, 2013
The decision to evict the students came after the occupation started in February and was criticised by some groups. A protest was organised at Sussex University calling for a continuation of protests and support for those students who were arrested. It also opposed the presence of police at peaceful protest and called for ‘Cops Off Campus’.
May 2013 – Pledge to protest closing of ULU.
The planned closure of the University of London Union was announced in May. This was met with hostility by many students and would be the trigger for protests and arrests later in the year.
— ULU (@ULUnion) May 3, 2013
As reported in The Journal the NUS pledged to support the union and oppose its closure.
June 2013 – Students occupy Warwick in protest at rise in Vice Chancellors pay. Stop G8 Protests in London.
As reported in Warwick-student newspaper The Boar, over 20 students occupied the Senate House on the Warwick campus to oppose privatisation at the university. One of the protesters said that the occupation took inspiration from the occupation at Sussex University earlier in the year. One of the protesters also said they were committed to dialogue but feared that the campus security services would cut off access to toilet facilities and food supplies.
However, again reported in The Boar, the protest ended peacefully on 22 June with many protesters claiming they didn’t want to occupation to drag on and result in legal action.
Meanwhile, June also saw anti-G8 protests which included ‘Stop G8 Network’ – which opposes the G8 and calls for an anti-capitalist agenda who were holding a ‘Carnival against Capitalism’.
Carnival against capitalism! Come on down to Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus starting right now! #stopg8
— StopG8 (@stopG8UK) June 11, 2013
During the protests there were allegations of police brutality towards protesters and one man arrested on a rooftop was taken to hospital as reported in the Huffington Post
Police said that there had been incidents of criminal behaviour and rumours of planned violence towards police. 57 were arrested according to The Guardian during the break-up of an occupation in Beak Street.
— Sean Hughes (@SeanWHughes) June 11, 2013
July 2013 – Announcement of Crime and anti-Social Behaviour Bill. Arrest at ULU after protest slogans written in chalk.
During July, the ‘Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour Bill’ was announced. This led to widespread concerns among many that it could restrict the right to protest.
As reported in the London Tab, 15 police officers were called to University of London Senate Building to arrest a student who had written a slogan in chalk on a wall protesting the closure of the University of London Union (ULU).
August 2013 – Fracking protest – arrest of Caroline Lucas MP.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion was also arrested. Charges were later levied against the former Green Party leader for “breaching a police order on public assemblies and wilful obstruction of the highway.”
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) August 20, 2013
One of most interesting issues in the fracking debate came in the role of Dr Edward Lloyd-Davies, who up until 2012 worked at the University of Sussex, it was reported in The Daily Telegraph that he was the founding member of Frack Off, the largest anti-fracking protest group. These reports attested to the continuing partnership between University staff and students in the demonstrations.
September 2013 – Aldgate East protests – EDL leader arrested along with 150 anti-fascist protesters.
An English Defence League (EDL) protest in Aldgate East was met by a large number of anti-fascist protesters in September. The leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson was arrested by police along with 14 others from the EDL. 150 anti-fascist protesters were also arrested for straying from the route. Approximately 3,000 police officers were deployed to keep order between the rival groups.
Robinson was also banned from speaking at Oxford Union the same month, amid ‘security concerns’. Speaking to the BBC, Oxford Student Union president Tom Rutland said that he was ‘delighted’ that the invitation had been withdrawn, stating:
“Fascist speakers who spread hate and threats that extend to our students and the wider community, and often bring with them a rally of violent and dangerous thugs, are clearly a threat to the safety of students and other residents of the city.”
October 2013 – Edinburgh students detained during visit by Princess Anne.
Two students at the University of Edinburgh were detained by Royal Protection Officers at the University’s Old College Building during a visit by Princess Anne in September.
EXCLUSIVE: Students detained after being forcibly removed from Old College http://t.co/hHEp1686OW
— Student Newspaper (@TheStudentPaper) October 9, 2013
The students claimed they were quietly studying when searched and arrested by the authorities.
Police Scotland said that the students were not detained under terrorism legislation and the removal of the pair was due to their unauthorised presence within a restricted area. Speaking to Pandeia, University Trustee Mike Shaw branded the incident a “disgusting breach of trust between the student body and their institution”.
Meanwhile, Sussex students restarted their efforts to overturn the decision to privatise services at the university. The previous occupation ended with a number of arrests and the latest occupation again centred on the Bramber House building.
November 2013 – Michael Chessum arrested after meeting with University of London representatives. Police try to recruit ‘spy’ at Cambridge.
University of London Union (ULU) President Michael Chessum was arrested by police in November after organising what police claimed was an unofficial protest.
— Leopard Newspaper (@LeopardNews) November 14, 2013
As reported in The Leopard this led to a protest outside a Holborn police station calling for Chessum’s immediate release.
Meanwhile, Cambridgeshire police received criticism for their attempt to recruit an informer within the student union at Cambridge University.
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Cambridge students denounce police attempts to recruit informant to monitor student activists http://t.co/9tjDOpIL1E
— TheCambridgeStudent (@TCSNewspaper) November 15, 2013
December 2013 – Multiple arrests and allegations of police brutality at ULU. Sussex students suspended then reinstated. #copsoffcampus.
Five students were suspended by Sussex University for their role in the on-going Occupy Sussex movement which has been based in Bramber House since late October.
This led to an outcry among many who supported the five and demanded they be reinstated.
After pressure from the campaign, the students were eventually reinstated by the university.
Sussex University dramatically lifts exclusions on five suspended students http://t.co/eL6OCGi2U5
— occupy_sussex (@occupy_sussex) December 10, 2013
Another protest at ULU resulted in more arrests and a video emerged of a police officer apparently punching a protester.
According to the London Student 36 arrests were made including editor of the London Student Oscar Webb who showed his press card to photographers while being arrested.
This culminated in a day of protest: #copsoffcampus was a national day of action and a large protest took place in central London criticising police brutality and restrictions on protest by the authorities.