On the night of Friday 27 September, at least fifteen police officers turned up at Royal Holloway Students’ Union in Surrey, and set about the profiling and searching of students attending a freshers’ week SU night.
This included both uniformed cops with tasers and sniffer dogs and, even more bizarrely, undercover police disguised as students.
The police had been invited into the student union by a commercial manager; no student or elected student representative authorised their presence or was consulted. The police were particularly targeting black students: an all-too familiar reminder of the police's systematic racism.
When a group of students attempted to challenge the police action, one of them – former Royal Holloway SU President and current University of London Union Vice President, Workers’ Liberty member Daniel Cooper – was manhandled to the ground by seven officers and arrested. He was held until Saturday afternoon.
There are numerous issues here: the routine presence of police on university campuses; students’ right to congregate, associate and organise freely; police racism; arrest of a student representative; and democratic control and accountability in student unions.
Far from creating a safe environment, such police presence creates an unsafe and intimidating situation. We should demand that the police are allowed on campus only in exceptional circumstances.
Royal Holloway students are launching a campaign on these issues, but all this is relevant much more widely. We need a campaign across the student movement. Cops off our campuses!