By Lina Sennevall
A student who needed emergency brain surgery after being hit on the head by the police during a tuition fees protest has urged KU students to keep fighting for their right to education.
Middlesex University student Alfie Meadows, 22, was told he had been charged with violent disorder when waking up from the surgery that saved his life.
Meadows, 22, will be tried at Kingston Crown Court on March 26 and is facing a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Philosophy student, Meadows who was protesting against the closure of his department on December 29 2010, spoke to KU students as part of the campaign Defend The Right to Protest.
He said: “The attacks on the right to protest should not put us off continuing the struggle against cuts and injustices.
“Students can help by encouraging the knowledge of our right to protest as well as continuing to strike against the education cuts and tuition fees.”
A demonstration has been organised outside his court hearing.
Defend The Right to Protest was launched in response to police tactics and arrests at the student protests in November and December 2010. It has been supported by activists, MPs, trade unions and student groups.
The campaign defends all those protestors who have been arrested, bailed or charged and are fighting to clear their names.
Support at all stages
Meadows said: “Defence campaigns are really important as they provide support to the defendants at every stage of the process, from the protest to arrest, from the court case to prison.”
Tens of thousands of students took part in the demonstrations of 2010 and were confronted by police.
Over 180 people, most of them under 25, have so far been arrested in the course of these protests. Many of them have been tried in Kingston Crown Court.
Meadows stressed the importance of support from lecturers and mentioned how the pressure from students and lecturers helped to get KU student James Heslip reinstated into the University after being sentenced to 12 months in jail for partaking in the occupation of Millbank during the student protests in 2010.
Meadows was joined by three other speakers in the Clattern Lecture Theatre on Penrhyn Road campus last week.
Arrested 30 times
Andy Higginbottom, chair of the University and College Union’s Kingston Branch, admitted that he had been arrested about 30 times in connection to protests.
He said: “I have never confronted the sort of violence Alfie did but I’ve had to deal with low-level police violence and harassment”.
He added: “I have to admit this is a big challenge. A lot of my colleagues don’t see this as being very important and they are not as outraged by the situation as they should be.
“We need to explain to the staff and the students at this university why this is important.“
Professor Peter Hallward was suspended along with Meadows and other staff and students pending an investigation into their involvement into a campaign against the closure of the department of philosophy at Middlesex University. He is now a lecturer at Kingston University and said that the protests had a powerful impact even though the department couldn’t be saved.
He said: “Never underestimate what a few determined people can do if the conditions are right. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and we couldn’t save the programme”.
He added: “We are losing at the moment but we can turn it around. We need to organise and remember what are powers are. We need to stand united.”