Police arrested 11 individuals before 10am yesterday morning in a display of heavy-handedness reminiscent of the May 14 strike, during which a number of students were badly injured. All of those arrested have now been released. Five have been charged, primarily with resisting and hindering arrest. Several others have been fined for obstructing traffic.
A number of cars were turned away at the City Road and Carillon Avenue picket lines before riot police arrived at Carillon Avenue at approximately 8:30am. The first group of arrests was triggered when students sat down on the road and were forcibly removed by the riot squad. Another group of people were arrested shortly afterwards when a motorcycle was attempting to enter the campus, and a student was thrown to the ground and arrested.
Witnesses state that the student then had his head stomped whilst on the ground. An ambulance was called, and the student received medical attention before being taken to the police station.
The arrested individuals were taken to Newtown police station between 9 and 9:30am. Two were released just after midday, but many were not released until 4 or 5pm.
According to SRC solicitor Maggie Hayes, one student was kept in a paddy wagon at the police station for two hours, despite there being ample room in the station for him to be detained. “I asked why he was in the back of the truck and I was told that there was no room for him in the cells,” she told Honi, “When I went down [to the cells] I was surprised to see that there was plenty of room.”
“There was no other reason for him to be in that truck but to intimidate him,” she said.
Another one of the arrested students claims that the University’s Traffic Operations Controller Colin Bowman told police officers that the arrested individuals were ‘professional protestors’ from Occupy Sydney. In fact, 8 of the 11 arrested individuals were either students or members of the NTEU or CPSU.
Mr Bowman was reportedly given an all-day visitor’s pass to the police station, and according to Ms Hayes and a number of those arrested, was allowed to inspect the arrestees whilst they were detained. “The fact that a University employee was given extensive access to the arrestees, even to the police truck which the students’ lawyers were barred from, seems contrary to Michael Spence’s claims after the last strike that there has been no collaboration between police and management,” said SRC President David Pink.
There have also been reports that students were not initially informed of why they were being arrested, even after they explicitly asked police.
Honi contacted the NSW Police, but they were unable to comment on any of the happenings at the strike due to matters being before the court.
The National Union of Students (NUS) yesterday condemned police violence at the strike, and called on the University and police to respect the right to peaceful protest. “We have a right to public assembly and the right to demand a high quality education system,” said NUS President Jade Tyrell.
Notwithstanding the arrests, the strike appeared to have had an impact. Though the campus was perhaps not quite as empty as it was on May 14, usually busy thoroughfares were relatively placid, even during the middle of the day.
The NTEU has pledged that it will continue its industrial action, and another strike is rumoured to be planned for the first week of next semester.