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Cops off campus rally descends on VC’s office

Hannah Ryan reports on last week’s rally against police violence

Cries of “shame” and “fuck the police” echoed throughout USYD’s normally tranquil Quadrangle last Thursday, as anger over police presence on campus continued to boil.

Around eighty people gathered outside Fisher Library at 1pm for a “cops off campus” rally in response to the presence of riot police at the strike on May 14.

An impassioned Nick Riemer condemned University management for its role in the police activity at the picket lines. Riemer, an NTEU Branch Committee Member and English lecturer, denounced management’s “violence in its different forms – violence dressed up as rationality, dressed up as pragmatism, dressed up as idealism”. Read his full speech here.

Wynand van der Woude, a USYD student whose leg was broken at the City Rd picket on May 14, had to speak from a seated position.

The rally then advanced to the Quadrangle, where Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s offices are located. In a stark inversion of the story of Rapunzel, protesters gathered beneath Michael Spence’s office and chanted: “When police enforce Spence’s attack / students and staff stand up, fight back”.

The final two speakers were Chris Darby, a Wollongong student, and Greens MP David Shoebridge, who condemned police violence and called for greater oversight for police.

While attendance was undoubtedly diminished by a combination of gloomy weather and post-election hangovers, Freya Bundey, the chair of the rally, described it as a success. She said it would build support for the June 5 strike, raising awareness of “the need to have even stronger picket lines”, and that it placed the burden of responsibility for police violence on University management.

The rally culminated with a more artistic expression of protesters’ anger, as they wreaked chalky havoc on the sandstone walls of the quadrangle. Graffiti variously described Michael Spence as a “WANKER”, declared that “all cops are bastards” and invited readers to “fuck” “Spence”, “the cops” and “the police”.

Not all were happy with this form of protest. “I’m not going to deface the quad!” muttered one attendee.

In any case, the chalk proved to be almost as fleeting as the speakers’ words. Within an hour and a half, it had already been removed.