Nick Stylianou popped in to Parliament Square’s new Education Camp and has reported back with what he found.
Repeatedly stressed to me throughout my brief sojourn at Education Camp was the fact that these students were partaking in a peaceful protest. The majority of the 25 students assembled were SOAS students, and have been in Parliament Square since approximately 3pm.
The police, powerless to intervene in what was a ‘civil matter’ have deferred to the Greater London Authority (GLA) to patrol the area. Nevertheless, students told me stories of how the GLA tried to replace the steel fencing surrounding the cordoned-off area, with students underneath it.
Other GLA operatives confiscated tents when protesters moved more than a foot away from them, and tried in vain to drag protesters out of the area, to little avail.
When I tried to speak to the GLA, those hi-visibility suited ‘security’ officials stared blankly at me, until a man who had no identification beyond his orange jacket came over to me. Seizing on this opportunity, I mentioned that I was a member of the press and asked if he would like to comment.
The response? ‘As a member of the press, you are trespassing.’ Pleading ignorance, I was told there was a sign to indicated private property. Upon locating no such sign (it later turns out that the signs surrounding the now-fenced-off Parliament Square only tells the public that the Gardens are now closed due to a ‘public health hazard’), I am told that my photograph needs to be taken as well as my press card details.
Instead of accepting my reluctance and letting me vacate the area, I am blocked repeatedly by the GLA until my spokesperson has started up his camera. I am powerless to resist, as he lets slip that the Education Camp has been served with ‘an official warning, pending an expected eviction’. He has no idea when that might take place.
The Education Camp activists aim to take advantage of Reading Week at SOAS to make sure their protest lasts at least a week. Plans after that are sparse, but a victorious unofficial goal has been set at a twenty-day camp.
Our embedded reporter, Rosa, has written extensively on previous Education Camps and we await her newest report!