Thursday, 29 May 2008

Report from the protest

Posted by Rhiannon

I attended yesterday's protest in support of Hicham Yezza and academic freedom (in no particular order; for details of the events which led to this protest, see my previous post). We began, in the pouring rain, with academics and students reading the document which, downloaded and emailed, led to the inital arrests. I have to say, it seems to be very stirring stuff, from what I heard through the rain: if you're holding a secret meeting in new house, remember that the walls are thin so keep your voice down. If you want to recruit a new agent, find out what they'd like before deciding what to offer them. Try talking to people who work in coffee shops.

We were then addressed by Alan Simpson MP, who in a moment of daring spoke from the forbidden balcony of the Hallward Library. He actually spoke very well--gathering lots of applause--telling us that he too objected to the way things have been handled, especially the time it took to establish that the download was legitimate research. He made it sound like he is doing everything he can to help, though not knowing what's possible I find it hard to judge the truth of this.

Finally, we marched--silently, gagging ourselves to make visible the silence and suggest that we are being silenced by this attack on academic freedom, and also because it's still exam time--round the Portland building to Trent (Google Maps should give you an idea: down Portland Hill and along East Drive to the courtyard of the Trent Building). Once in Trent courtyard, we stood as a mass, in perfect silence for perhaps five minutes, perhaps more: I was very caught up in the moment, in the expectant gathered waiting. That makes it sound like Meeting for Worship, which it was in as much as the silence was powerful and expectant, even gathered, and not in as much as the purpose was very different.

I don't know how many people were there. It's very hard to judge numbers from the middle of the crowd, so I'll leave guesses to others. I did, though, recognise several fellow students and a few members of staff from my departments, and I was heartened to see people coming to the windows as we stood in Trent Courtyard with the cameras whirring, the birds singing, and an unanswered telephone going somewhere in the background.

Other reports:
Worker's Liberty,
Asian Image,
photos can be found here (you may even recognise my hat),
follow more news stories here.


athenian owl said...

I think the protests were a great success, the turnout would have been much higher had it not been exam time (my excuse) and the rain must have put some people off.

I saw pictures of the protest on indymedia and Alan Simpson's speech on youtube - very commendable.


bookgeek:rhiannon said...

Yes, exams and rain were the main dampeners (one literally!) on turnout--I thought that given those factors, the number of people was even more remarkable. At least anyone looking to see if there's interest in the issue will see lots of views of the YouTube videos!

I hope the exams go/went well for you.