An assistant tutor at the University of Sussex has rejected accusations that he was a ring leader in the violence during the student demonstration on Wednesday 10 November.
Luke Cooper, who is a member of the International Relations department, was reported by The Evening Standard to have said that he “attacked Tory HQ”, which he says implies that he was involved in the violence carried out on Wednesday.
Talking to The Badger, Cooper strongly denies any part in the violence, denouncing the comments printed in The Evening Standard as “complete fabrication” and “slander” used to insinuate his involvement in a conspiracy to commit violent disorder.
A prominent member of the left-wing group Revolution, Cooper refutes suggestions that he was involved in any meetings that may have taken place over the last few weeks to organise violent action during the demo.
Cooper said: “even if I had been present at the meetings initiated by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts in the run up to the 10 November, I would still deny the insinuation that I or other activists present were guilty of conspiracy to commit violent disorder – all that was ever discussed at these meetings were forms of peaceful civil disobedience which might be taken at the end of the demo”.
Cooper supports the use of peaceful direct action and civil disobedience in order to combat what he describes as “a barbaric attack on Higher Education” which will “deprive a whole generation of working class students a place at university, returning to a system where university is the preserve of the richest in our society.”
He also suggests that the media have sensationalised the involvement of academics in the demo, being himself falsely named as a lecturer at the University of Sussex. Cooper further drew attention to the fact that comments released by lecturers at Goldsmiths, University of London, were claimed by the media to be justifying the violence.
This, he proposes, has been done in order to “intimidate the academic community into withdrawing its support from student activists” in the hope it will divide the resistance movement, which would be detrimental
to the fight against cuts.
Cooper also spoke of the ‘witch hunts’ he felt were taking place in the media, as national papers attempt to “vilify those who took part in the demo – making them out to be violent thugs in hoodies”, expressing the view that “property damage is not a solution – it won’t get the movement anywhere, but we need to look at it in context.”
Cooper explained how he “saw violence on both sides, not least by the police, and at the end of the day young people are very angry about these cuts”. He also declared that “in the end no rational person can compare some broken windows to the attacks being made on Higher Education.”
Cooper stated that he is “not prepared to condemn other protesters in the media”, and went on to say: “I do not agree with everything that took place on Wednesday. There needs to be a debate on tactics in the movement.”
In relation to an incident in which a fire extinguisher was thrown from the roof of Tory HQ at the crowd below, Cooper remarked that “the action was completely wrong.”
However, he also feels that “the hysterical media reaction is a smokescreen for the real issue”, in other words the damaging effects that these cuts will have on the principles of universal access to higher education and publicly funded university courses.
Cooper expressed strongly his support of the demo saying: “The big story is that tens of thousands of young people took part in the biggest workday demo in Britain for years. It was fantastic that they saw this government’s plans and stood up to be counted. Truly this was inspirational.”