Kings' students suspended after divestment protest
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Last Wednesday Kings' students Roger Hallam and alumni David Rhys Alan were arrested whilst spraying chalk on the walls of university buildings to draw attention to the institution´s investment in oil and gas companies.
Following a 14-hour detention by the police both men have been excluded by the university, with an emergency suspension being implemented for Hallam, who is a PhD candidate studying effective radical political campaigning. Hallam reports that on Thursday morning students entering the Tutu Building were asked to show their IDs, to ensure that he was not inside.
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The two are members of Kings College Climate Emergency, a direct action group working to put pressure on the university to divest from fossil fuels.
Alan, who graduated in January with a degree in international politics, explains that the group had brought cleaning products with them to remove the graffiti afterwards, but were prevented by university security. They are now being faced with tens of thousands of pounds of criminal damage, which they say would not have happened had they simply been allowed to clean.
“It was meant to be a temporary video op but it seems the writing is on the wall.”
Seemingly the university´s drastic response to the protest has had far-reaching consequences, with Alan now facing being stopped under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act when he attempts to fly to India tomorrow.
“We've received messages of support from and are working with Greenpeace, the green party, people and planet and others.”
Hallam, who reveals that all Kings staff have been forbidden from communicating with him, has already launched an appeal against his ban.
He tells us that he attempted to attend a meeting in the Students Union today, and was dragged out of the building by security staff.
“I was just having a meeting. I was not causing any trouble. As a matter of principle I should be able to meet with other students in this space.”
While they know there are “obviously no guarantees” that the university will move to divest as a result of their actions, both activists remain hopeful and determined.
“Personally I am happy to be arrested again and even go to prison. Whatever it takes!”
A King’s College London spokesperson said: ‘Work to repair the damage on surfaces including Portland stone - a porous limestone - will cost tens of thousands of pounds. It is a Grade 1 listed building and we have had to consult specialists about how best to remove the graffiti without causing further damage to the 200-year old stone work.’
A petition has been launched calling for Hallam´s suspension to be overturned.
To find out more about the campaign, visit the Kings College Climate Emergency Facebook page.
Lead image by poppet with a camera.