The Further Criminalisation of Student Protest

by | 4 Dec 2014

WarwickFreeEd-before-police-arrivedThe Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has served as a reminder of the wider politics of austerity and its beneficiaries in the form of tax cuts and those at its detriment experiencing wage freezes and cuts in services and benefits. It was also a reminder of how the reforms to higher education and the introduction of full fees is part of the same political programme. This point was not lost on the students who protested on Wed 3rd December. The sensitivity of universities to such protest is in inverse proportion to their willingness to debate the changing idea of the university. Increasingly, universities have sought to criminalise protest on campus while employing marketing techniques to protect their brand. The actions of police on the University of Warwick campus on Wednesday 3 December are symptomatic and cannot be allowed to pass without comment. A letter from current Warwick faculty and students is posted below. (If you wish to add your name, please do so using the comment boxes below.)


Dear Registrar,

We are writing to express our serious concern at the incidents which occurred on Wednesday 3rd December in Senate House when 25 Warwick University students, staging a sit-in to protest against university tuition fees, were subject to what appears to be excessive police action.

As you are aware, a video, which was subsequently posted on YouTube, showed footage of students being grabbed and pushed and having their hair pulled, followed by CS spray being used at very close range. Also in the footage, a taser gun can be seen and heard, and there have been subsequent reports that it may have been discharged against one student. Three students were arrested.

According to reporting in the Coventry Telegraph, the police were called by university officials to attend the protest after a claim that a protester had attacked a member of staff. There is nothing in the video or other reporting to suggest that there was an imminent threat at the time of the police action, and their behaviour appears disproportionate and unacceptable. ACPO guidelines, for example, state that CS spray ‘should not be used at a distance of less than one metre unless the nature of the risk to the officer is such that this cannot be avoided’ – it is not at all clear from the video footage and reporting that there was such a risk. The students state that they had been sitting in a circle discussing free education and the university community and that they had not been informed that the police had been called and nor did the police, on arrival, tell them why they were there.

We call on the university to publically affirm its commitment to democratic values and the rights of students and staff to protest peacefully against policies and practices with which there is disagreement. The university is our common space and we protest in the strongest terms against the violations that were allowed to take place here today.


Prof Gurminder K Bhambra, Sociology

Dr Hannah Jones, Sociology

Prof Emma Mason, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Dr Goldie Osuri, Sociology

Dr John Narayan, Sociology

Dr Khursheed Wadia, Centre for Lifelong Learning

Dr Solange Mouthaan, Law School

Dr Jonathan Skinner, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Dr Claire Blencowe, Sociology

Dr Aditya Sarkar, History

Dr Maria do Mar Pereira, Sociology

Dr Cath Lambert, Sociology

Dr Michael Niblett, Centre for Caribbean Studies

Dr Chris Campbell, Centre for Caribbean Studies

Ruth Pearce, PhD candidate, Sociology

Dr Daniel Orrells, Classics

Dr Milija Gluhovic, Theatre Studies

Dr Mark Storey, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Dr Stephen Ross, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Dr Helen Wheatley, Film and Television Studies

Dr Jose Arroyo, Film and Television Studies

Juanita Elias, PaIS

Dr Nick Lawrence, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Lauren Tooker, PhD candidate, PaIS

Dr Lena Rethel, PaIS

Dr Jimmy Donaghey, WBS

Dr Zakia Shiraz, PaIS

Lisa Tilley PhD Candidate, PaIS

Dr Maurice Stierl, PaIS

Prof Shaun Breslin, PaIS

Prof Shirin Rai, PaIS

María Eugenia Giraudo PhD Candidate, PaIS

Ali Saqer PhD Candidate, PaIS

Coraline Goron PhD Candidate, PaIS

Bahadir Celiktemur PhD Candidate, PaIS

Tobias Pforr, PaIS

Dr Lynne Pettinger, Sociology

Sean McDaniel PhD Candidate, PaIS

Jack Copley PhD Candidate, PaIS

Matt Kranke PhD Candidate, PaIS

Dr Marijn Nieuwenhuis, PaIS

Dr Charlotte Heath-Kelly, IAS

Roberta Mulas PhD Candidate, PaIS

Davinia Hoggarth PhD Candidate, PaIS

Dženeta Karabegović PhD Candidate, PaIS

Nikita Shah PhD Candidate, PaIS

Tim Street PhD Candidate, PaIS

Ana Ines Salvi PhD Candidate, CAL

Dr Renske Doorenspleet, PaIS

Rachel Lewis PhD candidate, CAL

Dr David M. Webber, PaIS

Antonio Ribeiro Leite PhD Candidate, PaIS

Aya Nassar PhD Candidate, PaIS

Lorenzo Feltrin PhD Candidate, PaIS

David Yarrow PhD Candidate, PaIS

Dr Ronny Scholz, CAL

Martin Lammertsma, Assistant Registrar, Deputy Registrar Office

Thomas Greenaway, CAL

Dr Chris Clarke, PaIS

Dr Erzsebet Strausz, PaIS

Dr Richard Smith, CAL

Elisa Lopez Lucia PhD Candidate, PaIS

Javier Moreno Zacarés PhD Candidate, PaIS

Dr Julia Welland, PaIS

Dr Nathaniel Tkacz, CIM

Sam Hind PhD Candidate, CIM,

Ragnar Weilandt PhD Candidate PaIS

Te-Anne Robles, PaIS

Craig Gent, CIM

Robin Janssens

Alex Taylor

Anna Rivers

Carolin Debray

Billy Barrett

Grace Holme

Sophia Yacoub

Patrick Whelan

Ellice Stevens

Sean Okundaye

Edmond Phua

Alasdair Pidsley

Kirsty Lohman, PhD candidate, Sociology

Prof Thomas Docherty, English and Comparative Literature

Dr Rashmi Varma, English and Comparative Literature

Prof Daniel Katz, English and Comparative Literature

Prof Neil Lazarus, English and Comparative Literature

Sam Burgum, PhD Candidate, Sociology

Dr Philip Kaisary, Law School

Jane Thakoordin, CLL

Prof Jackie Hodgson, Law School

Dr Sarah Hodges, History

Dr George Campbell Gosling, History

Dr Sam Adelman, Law

Lynn Wright, Academic Support Librarian

Prof Dennis Leech, Economics

Dr Charles Walton, History

Dr Celine Tan, Law

Prof Lorraine Talbot, Law

Paul Trimmer, Law

Anastasia Tataryn, Law

Prof Rebecca Earle, History

Dr Adam Slavny, Law

Dora Kostakopoulou, Law

Iyad Abou-Rabii , WMS

Jennifer Lander, Law

Katy Harsant, PhD candidate, Sociology

Dr Ben Richardson, PaIS

Dr Eileen John, Philosophy

Dr Illan rua Wall, Law

Benita Parry, Emeritus Professor

Dr Laura Schwartz, History

Dr. Myka Tucker-Abramson, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Carl Mallet, PhD candidate, Sociology

Dr Howard Chiang, History


  1. It’s interesting that you don’t express any anger about the student attack on a member of staff which led to the police action. The police looked to me to handle themselves with restraint.

    • Ralph. Please remove your comment, it risks making you look stupid and ignorant. The ‘attack’ is an alleged attack. There is plenty of evidence of police brutality, but I have seen nothing to substantiate the claim that a student attacked a member of staff. The issue here is proportionality. Did the police help calm the situation, or have they inflamed the situation. That such an event can take place at a seat of enlightenment and higher education is tragic and the Vice-Chancellor should consider his position.

    • Ralph, it would appear you are watching a different video to everyone else or have a rather different definition of the word ‘restraint’ to that found in the dictionary. Disgraceful scenes. Excellent letter.

  2. Jenny Lander, PhD candidate, Law

  3. Dr Richard Wallace, Film and Television Studies


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Join 4,622 other subscribers

We respect your privacy.


*fair access = access according to ability to pay
on a sliding scale down to zero.



Publish your article with us and get read by the largest community of critical legal scholars, with over 4500 subscribers.