Contrary to the media’s portrayal of the ‘scuffle’ between police and strikers, on the 14th of May, the riot police used excessive force, which was not commensurate with the threat.
This is not an isolated incident. It is not an exaggeration to say that the fear that the police would kill a student, teacher or community member was real: a head hitting concrete, a lung punctured from being squashed or headlocks evolving into strangulation were incidences of real violence which played out in front of my eyes time and time again. Sometimes the only thing marking the difference between the life or death of us picketing was the solidarity of the people who stood alongside you on the picket lines as we yelled, screamed and tried to grasp each other out of the vice-like grip of police repression. Yesterday I saw a police officer on King St and the powerlessness and hopelessness which enveloped me reduced me to tears, as I gasped for breath and shivered in fear and I realized the trauma they inflict upon me and my friends is not only manifested in physical symptoms.
And I know the VC will turn a blind eye. He has already testified to his ability to stand by idly as a student’s leg was broken, a staff member is suffering internal bleeding in her liver, and students were trampled on, beaten, bruised and emotionally traumatised. They will say how ‘scared’ the riot police (with their tasers, batons, and protective gear) had been by whichever (unarmed, unprotected, weaponless, often very young) protester. They will ban people from campus, engage us in lengthy court procedures and have the media (and social media) shame people.
But I know for a fact that those I work with in the SRC, in the EAG, Honi, Grassroots, SLS and SWA are made of stronger stuff, and the bonds formed at picket lines, however fracticious are difficult to erode.
We already have 500 signatures to ‘get cops off campus’; we will issue a formal complaint to the Ombudsmen; we will hold legal work-shops and support training for students suffering trauma; we also have an action planned for this Thursday, 1 pm at Fisher Library to show the VC we do not want police on campus.
More so we will work with the NTEU, CPSU and other unions and collectives interested in supporting ongoing industrial disputes at USYD.
The next strike is on the 5th of June and I urge you to come to the picket lines, to support our staff and importantly, to protect our democratic right to protest.