The violence that occurred on the five days of industrial action at the University of Sydney last semester will not soon be forgotten: police deployments by the administration effectively militarized our campuses; picketers (students and non-students alike) were arrested en masse; a staff member suffered internal damage to her liver; a students head was stomped on, community members/ union representatives were beaten and maimed by punitive riot cops; and there was also the emotional wounds, the psychological trauma that lingers long after the physical bruises have healed. All this because students, staff and community members held picket lines in order to refuse the privatization of their universities, as do students in Europe for weeks, without any police response whatsoever.
Another consequence of the police violence is that the original political message – in the case of the students, the project of defending the rights of staff through strike action—has been drowned out by discussions about “violence,” about who gets to be a “good” or a “bad” protester. The former was the student caught up in the heat; the latter was the ‘outside agitator’ or professional protestor who knew what to say (or what not to say) when questioned by the police. My point here is that whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’ protester the police were interested in the potential violence on the picket as opposed to the violence the picketers experienced. And this is not to say that this violence is not new; it is only that for many of us, it has remained invisible at the University of Sydney. The ‘scuffle’ is the reappearance on campus of what the NSW police and the Public order and Riot Squad (PORC) do every day to poor people — without video cameras (or I-phones) present, without stories in the Guardian or letters from concerned faculty. And at USYD too the handcuffs, capsicum spray, pistols, horses, vans and those creepy leather gloves have became an extension of the bureaucratic violence of the administration.
With the next strike on the 20th of August I think it is important to stress that there can be no dialogue with the threat of violence. The VC is terrified of losing control in his ability to undermine the working conditions of staff, ‘welcomes the assistance’ of the police presence on campus and is ready to turn the riot police on anyone who dares to raise their voice in protest. But this isn’t dialogue with the riot police in the background, as they form a line, smirk, slip on their leather gloves and tell us to “get ready for the beat down”. However, I refuse to smother my rage, cover my wounds and smile as I submit to further exploitation. I hope to see you at the picket lines 7 am, August 20th.