The inaugural event for the “Students Not Suspects” tour aimed at campaigning against the infamous PREVENT agenda was held at King’s College London amidst heavy security.
Organised by the NUS Black Students’ Campaign and King’s Ethnic Minority Association, the tour aimed to educate students and staff on “the impact of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act [which] is normalising Islamophobia and forcing public servants to act as informants.”
PREVENT was founded in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in a bid to counter homegrown terrorism but has received heavy criticism.
Ex Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg who spoke on the panel described PREVENT as “the poison chalice condemned by its creators that needs to be stopped.” He then went onto explain how notable figures within the police have said “because of these PREVENT laws, we are heading into a police state.”
There were also remarks from postgraduate student Mohammed Umar Faruq who was referred to Staffordshire university senior managers under the PREVENT agenda, after librarians saw him reading a “Terrorism Studies” book for his course.
King’s have publicly stated its intention to be in “compliance with the Government’s PREVENT strategy” and created an “internal steering group chaired by the Principal to oversee” implementation of the PREVENT agenda on campus.
From September onwards, universities are duty bound under the CTS Act to follow the PREVENT agenda. The UK government have warned NUS to stop any opposition to the PREVENT Strategy but have still continued.
Other panellists included Rachel Hager from the Defend the Right to Protest campaign, anti-Police activist Marcia Rigg and KCL academic Jim Wolfreys who heads the local KCL UCU branch.
Members of KCL senior management including college secretary Ian Creagh and Dean Richard Burridge were also in the audience and noticed by the panellists.
Wolfreys during his remarks reiterated the anti-PREVENT stance UCU adopted at their last congress and received applause after demanding senior managers present at the talk not to comply with PREVENT.
— Areeb Ullah (@are_eb) October 14, 2015
Attendees at the event were subject to a number of checks from KCL security and given a copy of the ‘Safe Space’ police to read prior to entering the event. No reason was given from KCLSU as to why students were given the ‘Safe Space Policy.’
Many audience members questions and concerns were centred on how the PREVENT agenda would impact relations between academics and students.
KCL Phd Student and GTA Sita Balani said, “I’m deeply concerned about the way that PREVENT undermines our ability to teach. Teaching requires a relationship of trust between everyone in the classroom. If students feel they are being spied on, they cannot speak openly and express their opinions.”
KCLSU earlier this month restated its opposition to PREVENT and adherence to the “Students Not Suspects” policy passed at the last AGM.
Additional reporting by Ryan Chang.