According to the University of Sussex Students’ Union, their statement about the National Union of Students (NUS) demo on 10 November has been “misrepresented by the BBC”.
An article on BBC Sussex online had the headline, ‘Students’ vandalism‘drop in the ocean’ – Sussex union’.
The statement released by the Students’ Union describes the damage committed as “a drop in the ocean compared to the true violence and vandalism the coalition government has applied to the education system and other public services.”
The Students’ Union President, Cameron Tait, as well as releasing this statement, signed a letter along with other union leaders supportingthe protest.
In an interview with ITV Meridian News, Tait stated “you’ve got to draw the line at physical, personal
harm.” Tait did indicate in the letter he signed however, that “occupations are a long established tradition in the student movement that should be defended.”
The Students’ Union will not condone violence but it believes that it is its professional duty to represent all of its members. The Students’ Union says that “the acts of Millbank showed the extent to which students and workers feel disempowered, disenfranchised and oppressed” by the coalition government.
Tait continued in his ITV interview that “the real vandals occupied the offices of the Millbank Tower long before November the tenth.”
University management refuses to condone the violence of the tuition fees protest. They say that “the university completely dissociates itself from any statements made by an individual or group which endorses violent or illegal action.” The university has said that the Students’ Union does not endorse vandalism and that their announcement was not a reaction to the union’s statement.
The President of the NUS, Aaron Porter, described the students who behaved violently as “despicable” and believes that their action has resulted in a loss of public sympathy, which undermines their cause.
Since Millbank was stormed over fifty arrests have been made and there have been reports that an allegation of attempted murder will be made against the 18-year-old who has since turned himself in for throwing a fire extinguisher from the building’s roof.
Sally Hunt, the General Secretary for the University and College Union (UCU) has come out in support of the peaceful protesters. Hunt, a Sussex graduate, described those who broke into Millbank Tower as a “mindless and totally unrepresentative minority.”
Despite this, Tait told the Badger that he does not want to get involved with deviations of opinion because the union should “remain united and focused on the issues that 52,000 students and staff travelled up to London for.”
Tait promises that there will “certainly be more protests,” and that we should “stand in solidarity with students across the country.”
There is a revised version of the Students’ Union statement on page 10 of this week’s issue of The Badger.