Eleanor Morley reports on threats to student welfare at the picket lines

Last Tuesday, I witnessed one fellow student have their leg broken, another held in a choke until they began to go limp, and another fall beneath a crowd and subsequently trampled for I can’t remember how long.

Were these the injuries suffered by students crossing the picket line on strike day?

No, they were injuries incurred by students holding a peaceful protest to defend the rights of their teachers. And who was the cause of these violent assaults? The riot police, who were invited onto campus by our very own Vice Chancellor, Michael Spence.

I believe it is the duty of the management of our university to protect the welfare of all students. Yes, including those who may disagree with the actions management are currently taking. Michael Spence can have no justification for putting the health of his students at risk. What did he expect was going to happen when he invited a squad of burly, thuggish riot police itching for a fight, onto campus?

Surely, one would assume that in order to require the presence of riot police, there would need to be some sort of, well, riot. Or that the wellbeing of those at university would be at risk. However, the actions of staff and students on the picket line was far removed from the accusations of violence, and in no way comparable to the brute force used by the police and riot squad. University management is not interested in protecting the welfare of all their students, but instead protecting themselves from criticism of their woeful Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

What has been perhaps even more shocking than the violence I witnessed last Tuesday has been the reaction from a small, but vocal group of students. To claim that a broken leg is an adequate punishment for calling someone a scab, or non-violently preventing them from entering the University is absurd.

The way in which this minority of  students has reveled in, and congratulated the violent actions of the NSW riot squad has been not only shocking, but incredibly damaging to the mental well-being of both those who were the target of police violence, and their friends who witnessed it. I urge those students who are publicly congratulating the violence to please stop.

This Thursday the SRC will be staging a rally, beginning outside Fisher at 1pm, and then marching to Spence’s office to hold him to account.

Police violence on campus is unacceptable, detrimental to the welfare of students and should not be tolerated by our Vice Chancellor for any longer.

Shame on you, Michael Spence.

Eleanor Morley

 
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