This features opening commentary from a few FITwatchers. If you’re in a hurry, skip straight to the safety tips after the stars **** at the bottom.
It has been a busy week at the University of London. Months of tensions regarding police invasion of campus space exploded when an occupation of the Vice Chancellors office was brutally evicted by the Metropolitan Police. Following this, there was a very dynamic ‘Cops Off Campus!’ day of action, followed by another one the next day. Both actions achieved their stated aims, with University grounds a largely cop-free zone for the duration. At the same time, there were occupations at several universities throughout the UK, with an injunction served (and ignored!) in Birmingham and the suspension of 5 students in Sussex. All these moments evidence both state repression and a sense of solidarity, taking collective action and supporting those who are singled out for repression. Great work everyone!
Responding to these developments, UoL management top dog Chris Cobb has taken out an injunction against occupational protest at UoL, in a desperate attempt to further pacify the university population and sterilise academic space. This reflects a broader trend in the capital to silence street-level political dissent. The authors believe this is a systemic trend in a failing capitalist society, which is increasingly resorting to totalitarian tactics to maintain social control. As in wider society, so on campus; total policing and its arrival at UoL is a sign of the weakness of management faced with two striking unions and a dissident student body. Effective on-campus resistance to neoliberal management policies bubbles away and the shock troops of the state are sent in to regain control and return the University to a place of work and consumption. Clearly, ‘human rights’ are entirely disposable in this hypocritical period of transition.
In direct defiance of this draconian measure, and following the events of last week, students and staff across the country will be taking to the streets on Wednesday in a national day of action to regain their campuses as places of free expression. The big action will be on UoL campuses on Wednesday (ULU, Malet St, WC1E 7HY at 2pm) but Sussex University will be hosting a week of action, as well as days of action at other universities such as Leeds and Bristol on other days this week. Check social media (hashtag #copsoffcampus) for more details.
Here are some simple tips to help you stay safe and protect your anonymity. Follow the links if you want more information.
1. Its December; so big jackets, hoods, scarves and gloves are a seasonal must! These will not only protect you from the weather but also police intelligence gathering. If you don’t have time to think properly about what you wear to the demonstration (it is strongly advised you do), at least make the effort to mask up.
2. Attend the demonstration with a group of friends (an ‘affinity group’) who are all ‘on the same page’ for the day.
3. Read legal advice before and accept bustcards from legal observers. Full arrest guide here, or multilingual bustcard here.
4. Maximum crowd solidarity: outwit the police, stay mobile, communicate with each other if you see kettles forming.
5. Snatch squads are small, triangular formations of riot police that move into a crowd to ‘snatch’ individuals from the crowd. Let others know if you see them forming. If someone gets snatched grab them by the waist. Everyone else should link arms. Together we are physically stronger.
6. FIT, Police camera teams (EGT’s) and PLO’s (cops in baby blue bibs) are there to gather intelligence. Defend your anonymity and safety by blocking and disrupting them as much as possible. A greater number of people engaging in this tactic makes it safer for all.
7. On police bail? Break your conditions! Read more here.
8. Be confident, refuse to be intimidated, assert your freedom!