200 students march in London protest against police violence
Rallies held outside Holborn police station and Royal Courts of Justice
Two hundred student demonstrators rallied outside Holborn police station and the Royal Courts of Justice last Wednesday during a march through London against police violence.
The ‘Our university, our streets!’ demonstration remained peaceful throughout, with police generally keeping their distance and monitoring the situation from a helicopter.
The protest came after police faced criticism for arresting 43 people, including journalists, in London demonstrations in December. Videos posted online showed one officer throwing punches at a protester and another protester being slammed to the ground by police.
Last week’s demonstrators were also campaigning for fair pay for university staff and to save the University of London Union (ULU) from closure.
The demonstration set off from ULU just before 2pm, with marchers walking round the University of London’s headquarters and through the School of Oriental and African studies.
Protesters then rallied outside the headquarters of Universities UK, the body representing British universities. A small group walked inside holding placards, and others threw white paint at the building.
The demonstrators then marched to Holborn police station, where twenty officers were waiting outside. Protesters chanted critical slogans as they rallied outside, with one shouting: “Fuck the lot of you, killers.”
The protest then moved past the London School of Economics to the Royal Courts of Justice, where the shooting of Mark Duggan by police in 2011 was recently ruled lawful, outraging many.
Demonstrators, some holding ‘Justice for Mark Duggan’ placards, shouted “Shame on you!” at thirteen officers guarding the entrance to the courts.
At around 3.15pm, the protest appeared to be coming to an end outside the Courts. But some demonstrators continued past King’s College London and on to the Royal Opera House, where cleaners are campaigning for the London living wage. A small group went inside, chanting “Fair pay now!” before being asked to leave by security.
The marchers’ route was not preplanned, but maps were circulated pinpointing possible rallying locations.
Michael Chessum, president of ULU, said the march “was about showing that the reawakening of the student movement at the end of last year hasn’t gone away.”
He said the campaign for democratic universities had transformed into a broader campaign: “We’re not interested in democratic universities if the rest of society goes to hell.”
Asked why he thought the police avoided confrontation on Wednesday – as they did at December’s national ‘Cops Off Campus’ demonstration – Chessum said: “I think we have won the argument about police violence so comprehensively that they had no choice.”
But he stressed that while “police aren’t beating students up on campus now”, they “might again in the future”.
A University of London spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the protest around Senate House was peaceful and appeared well managed.”
A national demonstration in Birmingham has been called for Wednesday 29 January.