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As more infomation comes in we are updating this blog with new information - check back for more info. This post has been cross posted with Occupy Sussex.
A national meeting of students taking place at Birmingham University yesterday ended with mass arrests and kettling as students left an occupation of the University’s Great Hall. Many students will be sickened to hear the police denying any kettling of protesters this morning on the BBC.
Around 200 students from across the UK met yesterday at the University for a discussion about the future of the student movement in the UK. Michael Chessum, President of ULU, explained that outcomes included calls for free education and more democracy on campuses nationwide.
Following the meeting, a demonstration and rally met, attended by over 300 people, and a banner was dropped from the University clock tower. The march made its way around the campus, with some protestors attempting to occupy buildings. The crowds made their way past the Horton Grange Conference Centre, currently the site of an occupation by the campus’ Defend Education campaign.
The march ended at the University’s Great Hall, where students once again went into occupation. At around 4.30pm, the students walked out, according to witnesses in a peaceful manner. They were met by a police line, at the buildings only exit, effectively kettling them outside in the rain. Around 150 students, and members of the press, were kettled by approximately 50 police officers.
After around two hours, students started to be let out in pairs and small groups, being searched upon leaving and told they were obliged to give their details to officers or face arrest. Many remained in the containment for up to four hours. West Midlands Police have confirmed that fourteen arrests were made, ‘on suspicion of aggravated trespass, damage & assault.’
Many students however have reported they witnessed arrests when students refused to give their details to police as a requirement to leave the kettle. Simon Natas, of ITN Solicitors, was speaking to students at the protest yesterday. He explained to us last night ‘In the case of Mengesha v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, heard in June last year, the High Court ruled that it was unlawful for the police to require people to provide their names and addresses as a condition of release from a kettle or containment.’ He went on to say he found it ‘very disturbing indeed if any police force was still engaging in this practice.’
Hattie Craig, Vice President of Birmingham Guild of Students said that some students she represents ‘were dragged to the floor by private security guards by their hair, whilst shouting I’m peaceful, don’t hurt me.’ Other students have also alleged they were assaulted by members of security personnel.
I spoke to one UAL student, Marc Dataro, 19, who went to Birmingham yesterday. He explained how he went along, ‘as a foundation student, getting no funding. I want to see a return of EMA, I was there to fight for our education.’
Marc was let out of a police kettle, after suffering from a panic attack and severe abdominal pains.
Shelly Asquith, President of UAL Students Union, and interim Chair of NUS London, was told by police she was unable to escort the student she had travelled with out of the kettle to receive medical attention. ‘Marc was found on the floor by some students from Sheffield, very unwell’ Shelly explained. ‘As soon as I got out of the kettle I took a taxi to find him.’
‘We came across him on the floor, and went over to check he was okay. Our impression was that an ambulance had been called so we waited. After ten minutes in the rain we overheard a conversation on the security radio that police weren’t allowing an ambulance to get to where Marc was,’ Andrew Gallacher, one of the students who found Marc, explained.
Marc was treated by doctors, and was asked to stay in overnight, and headed back to London to receive further tests today. It is understood he is currently seeking legal advice.