The NUS has announced it will be organising a national campaign titled ‘Students not Suspects’ to oppose the government’s Prevent strategy to monitor students in educational institutions.
The tour will visit London, Birmigham, Swansea, Manchester, and Glasgow, in collaboration with civil rights organisation Defend the Right to Protest.
The events will cover the importance of knowing your rights, organising non-compliance campaigns, and talks from individuals who have lost loved ones at the hands of police.
Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, better known as Prevent, states that particular bodies, including educational institutions, must “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”
NUS Vice-President (Welfare) Shelly Asquith named examples of when the Prevent strategy has had a negative impact on freedom of expression on campuses: A campaigner for the living wage was monitored by police; three female students who raised concerns about the Act to their student bodies were suspended; a boy who took leaflets promoting a boycott of Israel was told he had “terrorist-like views”; and a conference on Islamophobia was cancelled.
“With the focus on preventing what the government terms ‘Islamic extremism’, the prospect of racial profiling and state-sponsored Islamophobia is all the worse: Black and Muslim students are bearing the brunt of a reactionary, racist agenda while freedom of speech across the board is curtailed,” she says.
For this reason, the NUS will not comply with Prevent, and support Unions and staff who practice non-compliance. It calls for Unions to work with UCU, organise a campaign, collaborate with national organisations, and pass Union legislation against Prevent.
NUS Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia said: “In bringing their battle ‘for hearts and minds’—and against dissent—to spaces of education with the new Act, the government is inviting to our campuses the same brutality that plagues Black and Muslim people at the hands of the police and state in wider society.
“After decades of racist laws and abuse, it is time students alongside their communities finally fought back.”
Asquith added: “Whether it’s campaigning for education or environmentalism, when students choose to take action we are often met with the long arm of the law. Spied on, beaten, arrested. We need all out defiance towards the lack of justice that is limiting free speech and impacting students’ lives.”
The tour will visit KCL on the 14th of October, the University of Birmingham on the 15th, Swansea University on the 16th, Manchester Metropolitan University on the 21st, and Strathclyde University, Glasgow, on the 23rd.
The University of Manchester Students’ Union has been approached for comment.
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