At Warwick University, on Wednesday 3rd December during a tuition fee protest at the Senate House in the reception, students were allegedly sitting down enacting a sit-in and discussing free education and high wages of university management after a national student protest when police arrived. The reason stated by the police was due to a complaint from a member of the university staff claiming that they had been assaulted. What occurred once the police entered was a violent commotion, where it has been argued excessive force was used when a Taser was pulled out on students, pushing and attacking people occurred unprovoked, and CS spray was also in use. Three people have been arrested, one on suspicion of assault and two others on suspicion of obstructing police and have since been released on bail.

A video recording of the scene appears to confirm the attack by the police where a viewer can witness the pushing of students to the ground, others trying to get to their aid only to be dragged back with force, and the sounds of panicked screams and cries. Currently, two stories are being told of this occurrence. A spokesman for the university has stated that university security staff who supervised the sit-in were subjected to shocking and unprovoked acts of violence which forced them to call the police. Students at the sit-in have described the attacks from the use of CS spray with reports of having their Tasers and batons out.

This occurred after a national day of action that was organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) who called on the government to scrap tuition fees. Student protests have been occurring in cities such as London, Manchester, and Sheffield, to name a few. These actions are all focused on calling and campaigning for free education. This day of action coincided with Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement in his autumn statement that the government will introduce loans of up to £10,000 for postgraduate students. Warwick students, undeterred, are now planning to protest again on Thursday over the police behaviour.

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman stated that ‘police officers and security staff from the university worked together to ensure everyone was safe’. A ludicrous statement, it seems, from what appeared to be arguably excessive actions that had taken place at the sit-in. The statement on the Warwick Free Education website says demonstrators were ‘punched, pushed onto the floor, dragged, grabbed by the throat and rammed into a wall and kneed in the face’ – hardly actions that ensured the safety of the students. Warwick Students’ Union has also reported that based on the online video footage, ‘we absolutely believe that disproportionate force was used against protesters’ and as a result, some students were ‘unnecessarily harmed’.

In my view, in this instance of possible excessive force used by the police, it creates a place of disorder and high emotions of panic and anger towards students who have not been subjected to this kind of force before. Using such force with the aim of restoring order and safety, does not appear to have had the intended effect. Rather, there is a dangerous possibility that to subject students to excessive force in the name of safety will inadvertently reinforce people’s perceptions that ‘police brutality’ is a reality.

Link to the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCw6yjJGmCU

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/dec/03/warwick-university-students-police-tuition-fee-protest

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-30321409