This is what I had to write to satisfy the University in order to ensure the demonstration yesterday even went ahead. It was a peaceful demonstration and would have been with or without this statement. If anything, this shows the impact that demonstrations have had on the university, when they respond to me organising one by making me revise my risk assessment multiple times, give public assurances that I want the demonstration to be peaceful and call me into what was an incredibly intimidating and unnecessary meeting with 3 police officers and the head of security. All of these things limit our right to protest and I am sad that in this situation I felt that I had no choice but to go along with the university’s agenda in order that this demonstration was backed by the Guild of Students and had as large a turnout as possible:
“The Guild of Students and the University of Birmingham branch of the University &College Union (UCU) have called a joint demonstration under the banner of ‘Lift The Suspensions’ and ‘Staff & Students Against The Suspensions’ at 1pm on Wednesday 26th March. We called this in order to highlight the ongoing (over seven week) suspension of two final year undergraduate students at the University of Birmingham. As of 1pm today the two students had their criminal investigations discontinued, charges dropped and the University havenow reinstated the students.
The Guild and UCU wants to show that both academic staff and students believe in the principle of‘innocent until proven guilty’ and wish to defend freedom of speech and encourage divergent opinions in our academic community. In addition, Unison extended their support to the students following a meeting yesterday.
Staff and students are welcome to meet tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1pm in Mermaid Square at the Guild of Students, before marching around campus past the Main Library and in front of the Aston Webb building. This demonstration will now undoubtedly take a more celebratory tone, and we invite people to come and show their support in spite of the short term aim of this campaign having been met. It must be remembered that we still have a lot to protest about: these suspensions should not have happened in the first place and we want the university never to enact similar suspensions again.
In organising the demonstration on behalf of the Guild, I have reached an agreement with the University on how the rally and march should happen and the route that the march will take. The arrangements I have made for this Guild demonstration are what I believe to be in the best interests of the Guild, its members and in achieving success in the campaign.
On this occasion, I believe that direct action will not be to the benefit of students or the Guild.To ensure the safety of those students taking part and on campus I will keep to the arrangements I have made with the University and ask students to stick withthe agreed plans for the demonstration. I must remind participants that anyone engaging in criminal behaviour could be prosecuted so I would ask that everyone refrains from this type of activity.”