Concerned University of Sussex students have called an emergency meeting to talk about how they can support a second year Politics student who was imprisoned two weeks ago.
Zenon Mitchell Kotsakis, was charged with alleged “violent disorder” for throwing two placard sticks at a police line, and was sentenced to 15 months in jail by Kingston Crown Court on 4 November.
A minimum of 150 signatures were needed to organise this emergency meeting, to be held in Mandela Hall, which will also be discussing support for the strike action on 30 November.
Students’ Union Communications Officer, Ariel Cohen, said: “The sentencing of Zenon and other students for their actions at political demonstrations have been outrageously disproportionate and seem to reflect a desire within the establishment to deter students from participating in political action. The meeting is an opportunity to give a clear signal of how we feel.”
Online support is being harnessed for Kotsakis with a Facebook page called ‘Free Zenon. Justice For Students’. The page is filled with messages from friends, family and well-wishers.
Here, Kotsakis’ brother has posted an open letter from their father, saying: “It is unfair and marginally legal in any fair-minded body’s rationale to ruin young students’ future prospects and professional life for throwing a piece of stick towards an aggressive police force; a force that uses long truncheons and kettling methods to suppress justified civil unrest.
As my son is also a student of politics at the University of Sussex he has one more reason to be conscientious of the dire consequences for social justice and social mobility that derive from the student fees recent legal rearrangement.”
The letter also raises a question that will be on the minds of many relatives, friends and supporters of other individuals arrested on similar charges: “I wonder whether any appeal court judges would be willing to stand up against the judicial oppressiveness, the mass violation of citizens’ rights and the human devastation caused for political expedience that the sentencing of my son and many others have incurred.”
The organisation ‘Defend The Right To Protest’, which was created in response to the student protests last year, is encouraging people to ‘twin’ with those imprisoned like Kotsakis.
They are hoping that those who do so can help raise public awareness and pressure for the release of protestors, as well as helping to make life in prison more bearable for them.
The organisation emphasises the importance of the public coming together in support of the ‘real victims’ whom they consider to be the imprisoned students, anti-cuts, and anti-fascist campaigners.
They also point out: “While protesters are being victimised in this way, not a single police officer has been held to account for the violent treatment of protesters on many demonstrations.”
The Students’ Union and the University and College Union (UCU) have already released a joint statement. The statement is available on the Union website along with a letter sent to the Guardian, signed by students and academics.
The emergency meeting will be held in Mandela Hall, Falmer House, on 25 November.