A protest today against the Government’s proposed cuts to higher education began with students sprinting down Eastern Avenue to escape police, and ended with a police dispersion order.
Police officers stated they were present at the invitation of the University, though a University spokesperson denied to Honi that this was the case.
Approximately 200 students gathered on the Quadrangle Lawns at 12:30pm today, at first participating in a public teach out organised by the Sydney Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
After several speeches, as Greens MLC David Shoebridge began to speak, students in the audience stood up and began to chant “no cuts, no fees, no corporate universities”.
Students then sprinted down Eastern Avenue and down City Road, attempting to take the street as they did two weeks ago.
Riot police were prepared for this, funnelling students back through Victoria Park into the university. Students regrouped in order to continue the protest, and ran down Manning Road to attempt to occupy Parramatta Road.
Students were then forced off the road by police. Tom Williams, a third year science student, told Honi that he was “tripped, pushed and dragged by my bag along the road, which aside from the road rash and unwarranted handling, was yet another display of egregious force by the police. These goons have clearly been emboldened by their newfound powers, and take great glee in bullying anyone standing up for a better world using extreme force.”
There, riot police, as well as police horses closed in on students from all sides, and pushed them back into the university, where, out of public view, the order was given to start grabbing and fining people.
Among those stopped by police was Law Professor Simon Rice, who was roughly forced to the ground by four police officers as he left the protest.
The above video was sent in by Will Simmons.
It is unclear at this point how many students have been fined, though initial estimates from organisers is about ten. Georgia Mantle, a USyd student, states that she and another student were fined almost an hour after the protest had ended as they left the NTEU’s teach out.
Prior to the NTEU’s teach out, police officers approached organisers to speak about the event, saying they were there at the University’s invitation.
A police officer repeatedly asked who was the organiser of the “protest”, a video obtained by Honi shows.
Organisers repeatedly corrected the officer out that the teach out was not a protest but an ordinary teaching event that fell within the University’s exceptions to the Public Health Orders, and that they had been advised as such by the University’s lawyers. A similar teach out took place two weeks ago without police interruption.
“I appreciate that we’re at odds on that particular position,” the officer told organisers.
“I’m doing my normal job here at the University,” NTEU branch committee member Nick Reimer told the officer, “and I don’t intend to be intimidated by the police doing it.”
“It’s not usual when we begin a class that police begin to question us,” he said.
The teach out went ahead without issue.
An hour after the teach out ended, approximately 100 police officers remained on campus around attempting to question students
In a statement from a spokesperson, the University stated that it was “disturbed” by videos of protests, and encouraged persons to file complaints if they think they “were treated poorly” by police.
“We have not heard back from NSW Police following our previous attempts to discuss their response to recent protests on campus. We will contact them again as a matter of urgency, and express our serious concerns. We will also reiterate our offer to discuss different approaches that might avoid similar situations occurring at future events,” they said.
The University states that they did not invite police onto campus, but clarified that “NSW Police did contact us once ahead of the event, and twice during it. We confirmed we were aware activity was planned, based on social media. We provided no further information or judgement about the activities, and did not make any requests.”
Organisers of the protest condemned police violence against students. “Today we saw extreme police repression from approximately 100 police officers at a rally against course cuts and staff cuts,” SRC Education Officer Jazzlyn Breen told Honi. “Despite this oppression we will not stop protesting, the police will not intimidate us out of fighting for this campaign to win.”
The Job Ready Graduates Bill looks set to pass after the Government recently won the crucial support of Centre Alliance. Last week a student convoy travelled to Canberra to protest the decision. Student resistance to the cuts is expected to escalate.
“We have to continue to be prepared to take a stand and break unjust laws — fighting back is the only way we’ve won anything,” Environment Officer Lily Campbell said.
“Proud to see another militant action today from students who are sick of sitting back passively while Morrison and management destroy their education,” SRC President Liam Donohoe told Honi. “We’ll escalate until we build a better education system.”