KCL trying to demonise climate protesters, claim students
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At the beginning of the month London students activists spray-painted the Main Hall of King’s College to publicly shame the University’s investment in the oil and gas industries.
Two arrests were made following the protest organised by Kings College Climate Emergency – PHD student Roger Hallam and alumnus of the University David Rhys Alan.
After being escorted from the premises by police and locked away for 14 hours, the pair were notified of their respective suspension and exclusion from KCL.
Hallam told The National Student: “I was also told that staff members had been banned from communicating with me. The University thinks that it can run the show with no accountability. Everyone’s scared shitless of doing anything because they won’t get a degree, the promotion or will get a bad record. So no one wants to challenge anything”.
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He continues: “When you get institutions like that…you basically get corruption. People aren’t held to account; it’s basic, liberal, political theory. It’s not radical to say that”.
In addition to their bans, both Hallam and Alan face criminal damage charges for £10,000, as a result of their use of spray paint on the University’s premises.
The pair maintain that this is an extreme and aggressive reaction to their right to exercise civil disobedience; as promoted by Bishop Desmond Tutu – an alumnus of the institution.
They argue that the temporary chalk spray that was used takes all of “five minutes” to clean.
“In the spirit of taking responsibility for their actions”, the protestors brought buckets, soap and clothes and started to clean the chalk after action took place. However, they were quickly stopped by security staff.
“Our aim was not to cause any permanent damage to the walls. Nothing so spontaneous can happen at King’s it seems”.
Hallam added: “It’s totally soluble. KCL have done a major, publication relations, lying campaign that they normally do when they’re threatened, to make out that there’s hundreds of thousands pounds’ worth of damage”
Divide & Rule
Though eight other individuals participated in the protest, Hallam and Alan say that they were deliberately targeted.
“In the great imperialist British tradition of divide and rule, the two likely ring leaders, including myself, were separated off from the rest of the decorators and given special treatment,” said Hallam.
“I feel let down by the University. It seems as if they are trying to demonise us for what we are doing, when in actual fact, this is something that’s going to benefit the university and other people” said Alan.
He continued: “This has made it harder for me do work because I have not been able to use the university’s facilities to undertake research”.
“I hope that the decision will be reversed to enable me to continue my studies but I don’t have much faith that this will happen”.
Hallam echoed his peer’s sentiment: “I’m really upset but I totally expect it because Kings aren’t really open to reasonable argument and haven’t been for years”.
“Some students have kindly created a petition to call for end to my suspension so that I can continue to do my work and research at Kings College. In the mean time I will challenge my ban in the next few days”.
Alan is currently overseas and faces being stopped under the Terrorism Act, Section 7, as a result of the charges.
He hopes that “the protest will draw attention to the cause, securing a commitment from KCL to accept their responsibilities as an institution educating minds of the future, and divest from all fossil fuels”.
Student activist Luke Harwood made the following statement on the matter: “The fact that institutions such as KCL are content to happily risk the fate of humanity for a profitable investment is beyond contemptible. When they seem so obviously unwilling to divest the only option is to escalate our message.”
The pair have received messages of support from and are working with Greenpeace, the Green party, people and planet and others.
Hallam reflects: “The people that run the show are in the hands of the corporate elite. BP, Shell and all these guys that run the university don’t live in the same world as the rest of us”.
When contacted for a statement, a spokesperson from Kings offered the following: "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".
“The Student Conduct and Appeals process is now underway, therefore it is not appropriate to comment further”.