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Open letter to Michael Spence

The SRC Executive has written an open letter to Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence about police on campus

Dear Michael Spence,

As you will no doubt be aware, a number of students were seriously injured during Tuesday’s protests.

One student had his leg broken. Several students were trampled. Many others were shoved, grabbed, bruised or struck. These attacks on peaceful protestors were nothing less than outrageous.

Another student was put in a potentially life-threatening situation when a police officer strangled him for nearly two minutes. He went without air for a minute and a half and has had to seek medical attention.

The danger with something like strangulation is damage to the hyoid bone, which is susceptible to fracture. It holds up the larynx (and therefore the entire breathing apparatus), and thus prolonged, forceful pressure against the neck is incredibly dangerous.

Asphyxiation is similarly life-threatening. Permanent damage from oxygen deprivation can occur within a matter of minutes. One and a half minutes without oxygen is a long time in terms of respiration, and cerebral hypoxia (reduced oxygen supply to the brain) begins to set in rapidly.

The fact that a police officer was willing to put a student in such danger is absolutely unacceptable.

The argument that the riot police bring order to the campus is transparently absurd, all footage and testimony shows that the police have been a force for violence and disruption.

One student also came at risk of suffering an epileptic fit. Despite repeated requests the riot police refused to help them, which is a clear indication that the riot police are not there for our safety.

Students and staff of the university have every right to protest peacefully. We have never been violent. What’s more, students have every right to protest free from the fear that they will be targeted and needlessly attacked by riot police.

All of these assaults and indignities could have been avoided if you did not allow the the public order and riot squad on campus. The university has the right to exclude police from campus, and in the past it was very rare for the police to come on campus for this very reason.

We are terrified that a student will suffer a more serious injury than a broken leg next strike day. The riot police have been so violent that we are terrified that one of our friends will be killed.

We call on you, Vice-Chancellor, to take responsibility for the safety of the university community and cease inviting the public order and riot squad onto Sydney University grounds.

The 85th SRC Executive


Update: See Michael Spence’s response to this letter here.