A demonstration opposing the abolition of the University of London Union (ULU) by University of London management has ended in clashes with police.
Around 200 protesters assembled outside ULU and processed through Bloomsbury, passing Birkbeck and SOAS. The University of London, which has banned protests from taking place at Senate House, blocked entry to the complex; locking the gates and erecting 6ft fences.
Speaking outside the Union’s Malet Street headquarters, ULU President Michael Chessum said, “We will not tolerate the destruction of the largest students’ union in Europe.” He added, “This is our campus, our university, and we will not let them shut us down.”
A strong police presence attempted to obstruct protesters from entering the Senate House complex. However, around six students were successful in getting inside before being physically dragged out by police officers and security guards.
A SOAS student who was among those forcibly removed said: “this is our university … we have every right to be in that building protesting and making our voices heard. Instead I get dragged out by police, I get dragged out by security. It’s a disgrace.”
The students then moved to the green opposite SOAS where they attempted to force their way into Senate House through the entrance behind the Brunei Gallery. Police blocked the protesters, shoving some of them to the ground. ULU Black Students Officer and SOAS student Maham Hashmi says she was punched in the face by a police officer. Another SOAS student told SOAS Spirit a police officer had grabbed him by his scarf, shouting “fuck, fuck, fuck” in his face.
The protest ended with Chessum telling students gathered outside ULU that a cross-campus referendum would be held in the coming weeks to demonstrate the extent of student opposition to the closure plans.
A review of ULU, chaired by SOAS Director Paul Webley, recommended the Union be abolished and its Malet Street headquarters turned into a management-run student centre. The University of London’s collegiate council approved the plans in May and hopes to close ULU by August 1, 2014.
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