England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

UCL students protest repression on campus

By Julia, UCL Student Socialist Alternative

On Friday 15 March, UCL Student Socialist Alternative led a protest defending democratic rights on campus outside the Dr Refaat Alareer Student Centre. The protest was part of a larger anti-repression campaign following the anti-democratic “no protest zone” enacted by UCL management.

All repression against activists and protest on and off campus must be opposed. The strength of a rallied student movement alongside the organised working class is necessary for stopping UCL management and the larger Tory culture war that enables anti-democratic restrictions.

The protest, endorsed by a coalition of student groups and trade unions on campus had the following demands:

  • Overturn the “no protest zone” policy of the Refaat Alareer Student Centre!
  • Right to protest, poster freely, and leaflet for all! Open campus to everyone – end empty threat security checks!
  • No cops on campus! Scrap Prevent and end intimidation of activists!
  • Oppose the witch-hunt of pro-Palestinian activists – down with the racist double standards!

 

This unlawful protest ban was instated following the demonstration led by UCL Action for Palestine (AFP) members who renamed the student centre the “Dr Refaat Alareer Student Centre” on 7 February, after the writer and UCL alumnus killed by the Israeli state in December.

Friday’s protest took place at the same time as the UCL AFP group’s occupation of the Jeremy Bentham Room on campus. In an announcement post they said they have “declared [the room] an Apartheid Free Zone – a space in which to educate about the struggle of the Palestinian people and from which to pressure management to end UCL’s complicity in genocide.”

The protest drew out a crowd of students, staff and community members in favour of ending the disgraceful protest ban and opposing repression on campus. However, at the same time, reports emerged that the UCL AFP group currently occupying the Jeremy Bentham Room were being interrogated by police officers. The protest thus marched over to the Jeremy Bentham room to show support in the face of the police presence.

The increasing police presence at universities comes in the context of increasing repression on campus. This is part of a larger effort by UCL management to have absolute control over the university while only protecting the interests of the British ruling class. There is, therefore, an urgent need for a united student, staff, and wider working-class struggle to defend the right to free-speech and take back democratic control of the university.

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