Goldsmiths lecturers have said that students should not be “scapegoated” for their actions during the protests on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference at the University of London Student Union early this afternoon, John Wadsworth, president of the Goldsmiths branch of the University and College Union (UCU), said:
“We do not condone violence. We understand students’ anger but we do not want to see students scapegoated for government policy.
“I was on the march and I saw the anger not just in front of Millbank Tower. I saw the anger all the way down Whitehall”, he added.
Five Goldsmiths students were amongst those arrested and then released on bail until February 2011, for protesting on the roof of Millbank Tower on Wednesday.
The secretary for the Goldsmiths branch of the UCU, Des Freedman said: “The violence in our statement refers to the impact of the cuts both on education and beyond. I implore people to read the statement and they will understand why we felt it necessary to support the tens of thousands of people on that demonstration, then you will see how we were misrepresented”
He also stressed the “real devastation” the university sector faces. “That was the point of the statement, to draw attention”.
Ashok Kumar, education officer of LSE and Clare Solomon, president of London University Union, affirmed their support for both the lecturers statement and the demo itself: “The events that took place were born out of anger, not just a handful of students that were interested in being provocative” said Mr Kumar.
Ms. Solomon said: “I wholeheartedly support the students and lecturers in their struggles of the last couple of days against the outrageous attacks on our education system that our government have been trying to impose recently” she said.
She also called on all students to respond to a day of action on November 24, “I expect students to take over their universities and show the government that we won’t stand for them smashing our education system. I would like to see all the universities across the country occupied. This is the day the government will be discussing the proposals. We need to put pressure on those MPs, specifically the Liberal Democrats who have promised to eradicate tuition fees”.
To see yesterday’s ELL coverage on the arrests and the Goldsmiths lecturers union statement, click here.
Meanwhile, Billy Bragg is one of hundreds of people who have signed a statement defending the students who were arrested after the occupation of Millbank.
The statement was produced by a blog called “WE NEED UNITY – Defend the Millbank Protestors” which was set up last night.
The only post on the blog reads: “We need unity to break the Con-Dems’ attacks Stand with the protesters against victimisation.
Wednesday’s national NUS/UCU 50,000 strong national demonstration was a magnificent show of strength against the Con Dems’ savage attacks on education.”
It goes on to say that the “mood was good-spirited” but “at least 32 people have now been arrested, and the police and media appear to be launching a witch-hunt condemning peaceful protesters as ‘criminals’ and violent.
“We reject any attempt to characterise the Millbank protest as small, ‘extremist’ or unrepresentative of our movement.
“We stand with the protesters, and anyone who is victimised as a result of the protest.”
The statement has also been signed by Naomi Klein, Lee Hall, writer of Billy Elliot, as well as Alex Gordon, President, National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT) and hundreds of students and members of the public.
The campaign also has a Facebook group, which currently has over 2,500 members.
Below is more video coverage from ELL’s reporters, who followed the protests throughout the day: