Broken bones and crutches: STOP violence against peaceful students and staff!
Broken bones and crutches: STOP violence against peaceful students and staff!
Why this petition matters
We, students and staff, ARE the university.
We pay for it to function, we do the teaching, the knowledge sharing, the research. Without us, there is no university. Why is the police always present when we engage in peaceful progressive protests? Why are students brutalized and literally get their bones broken when they peacefully protest on their own university grounds? How can we feel safe to transform our university if this is the response from management?
Police on campus cannot be the norm, administration must learn how to deal with progressive protests without the use of violence. We, the university, must do better than that. We envision an institution where we can feel safe to speak up and engage in social change.
We, the undersigned, demand that the executive board of the UvA:
1. Stop using violence as a response to progressive peaceful protests.
2. Do not allow police to come to university grounds - except for extreme cases of violent crimes with victims in which police force might help stop an aggressor.
3. Stop calling the police on peaceful protests* or “occupations”. Stop evicting students in these situations.
4. Revoke the immediate eviction procedure instated after the 2015 occupation (UvA).
On January 16, students,staff and peaceful protesters were holding conversations, artistic performances, music and having food in the previously empty AAC building. The CvB enabled the riot police to come to the UvA building with 50+ riot police officers bearing shields and batons, many vans and one helicopter. Quickly, the police started destroying the students’ rain tents and beating people. People were covered in bruises, even those who were filming from a distance. At least one person had their hand broken by police attacks and another person had to go to the hospital due to leg injuries, which resulted in them needing crutches for many days. 30 people were arrested and kept in a cell for up to 24 hours. Police also used their knees to violently hold people on the ground. You can see a collection of videos and pictures here from the January UvA occupation (TW: police violence), including a testimonial** from the student whose hand was broken. Obviously these events are extremely heavy for protesters who were brutalized, and this response from management creates fear in students and staff that want to speak up. How can the administration of universities be able to call the riot police on their own students and staff for peacefully protesting?
When asked about police brutality, executive board member Jan Lintsen replied “If you look at the images you can see that there is a very careful handling of police of the people who are resisting”. Board members also admitted to giving the name of protesting students to the police in multiple occasions.
- update (18 May): video of undercover police agent at the UvA during our last protest on May 16. During the day, this officer and other ones with police clothing were in the ABC hall where the demonstration was taking place. Police was taking pictures of people, banners and signs. At the end of the day, the police was used to violently evict our peaceful protest - once again. We were having debates, arts and crafts, music, sharing sessions, games, and the university allowed 14 people to get arrested. Police used batons and shields against a crowd again, hitting and injuring many. With these threats to our own safety, many of us choose to wear face masks or face covering clothing. We wish we didn't have to. The risk of being spied on, as peaceful protesters are being spied on by Dutch police, is specially harmful for the non-European students who fear for their visa. Many students come to us to say that they wish to protest at the UvA, but do not feel safe to do so.
The executive board members make claims that “other groups, from outside of UvA, who are violent, could join”. The students and peaceful protesters are beaten up by police, and protesters are the violent ones? People were having discussions, artistic performances, food, music. They had demands that they were interested in discussing, and got the baton for it. There was no evidence of violence from “occupying” groups, as there never is. These claims about violent protesters at university are absurd and hold no ground in any circumstance. Additionally, the board said they are obliged to evict “occupations”*** due to the creation of a procedure to immediately evacuate any “occupation”. This procedure was (supposedly) created after the 2015 “occupation” of the Maagdenhuis building. Similar occasions of police violence happened previously at the UvA - Maagdenhuis 2015, PC Hoofthuis 2018 - and in other universities recently.
On April 25, university of Groningen (RUG) evicted people violently with police force. There are shocking scenes of people being brutally dragged down the stairs of the RUG, and one staff member being beaten with a baton just for recording and talking to police. Dogs were also used to intimidate. Students were peacefully protesting and refusing to leave the RUG building. They were demanding the reinstatement of professor Susanne Täuber. She was fired for criticising her own university for gender discrimination. A petition with over 4,000 signatures, including renowned scholars like Judith Butler, was delivered to the executive board of the RUG.
Students from Occupy EUR got evicted by police recently (9-May-2023) within a few hours. University Rebellion TU/e went through a similar process, with some videos and pictures showing the president of their executive board, Robert-Jan Smits, dragging a student with his own hands. Evictions (or threats) were also made recently at the UU and at the Velp Hogeschool. The protesting students are demanding their universities take responsibility amidst the planetary crisis we are facing and therefore stop legitimizing Big Oil (Shell, Exxon etc.).
If boards are to guarantee safety in universities, OUR safety - of students and staff -, they must stop sending police to campus to intimidate, brutalize and arrest peaceful protesters. Our boards need to have the spine to discuss serious issues without using violence. The universities are ours, we are not invading them, we are students and staff simply choosing to run programs and events outside the “business as usual” mode of the university. These direct actions take place because the university is not able to meet the needs of their own students and staff. Typically, people have dialogues, campaigns, complaints, requests, and all these tactics mostly fail or take many years to achieve partial results, if any. Then groups of students and staff choose to reclaim what’s already theirs: the university.
We want to be critical and enact change - this is how we do it, through direct action. We do it to transform the university into a space that allows for progressive social changes.
We ask the academic community to stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters at universities. Tell the executive board clearly: stop evicting students, stop using violence against peaceful protesters and stop using police on university grounds! Find ways to engage with transformation and social change without violence!
In solidarity with students and staff who dare to protest,
Amsterdam Autonomous Coalition (AAC)
* Peaceful protests are those that do not cause harm to persons. In some instances they may go against regulations or laws, for instance for refusing to leave the university after closing hours, however they do not cause harm to people. They should, therefore, never be treated with violence, such as (riot) police being deployed.
** Testimonial from anonymous student whose hand was broken by police brutality:
“I'm a medical student at the University of Amsterdam, who cares greatly about the future of all the people on this planet. I was a supporter and bystander at the occupation of the university on Jan 16 2023, when the police, who were sent by the CvB, used so much violence that they broke my hand, among injuries that they inflicted on other people. Today, in May 2023, I can still feel the deformity of the bone they broke 4 months ago. This is how the UvA treats their students who care about the future of humanity and the university.”
*** the term “occupation” or “occupying” (groups) are between quotation marks because we do not necessarily agree we are occupying the university. When we reclaim a space, we are choosing to use the space differently than its usual use (business as usual), however we, students and staff, are the owners of the university, so we are not invading it or occupying it.