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Exclusive: Video footage shows University of Aberdeen senior management rugby-tackling protesters

16th March 2018
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A member of the University of Aberdeen senior management has been accused of using excessive force against a group of students who were protesting in support of striking lecturers.

The group of approximately 18 students began their sit-in protest on Tuesday afternoon, when they entered the senior management corridor to express their solidarity with the University and College Union (UCU) and its striking staff.

 

Credit: Aberdeen Students Support the Strike

The Aberdeen Students Support the Strike group has since released video footage which shows a member of senior management, Angus Donaldson, rugby-tackling students.

Protesters claim this incident took place after members of the demonstration outside of the building were refused access to join those inside - despite having earlier been assured anyone wanting to join the protest would have "open access" to the site.

The protesting students inside gathered in the corridor behind the entrance, to demand the doors be opened. The response by university management and security to these protesters appears to trigger a scuffle.

Charging headfirst, Director of Estates and Facilities, Angus Donaldson, can be seen in the footage using a rugby-tackle manuave to ram the group of students from behind. Donaldson pushes the students together, seemingly squashing them into what appears to be the corner of the corridor.

Distressed students begin screaming with some shouting out "hands off" and "get your hands off of us". In the crush a man, identified as a member of security, falls over.

 

A UCU Aberdeen member who was participating in the demonstration outside called the police due to concerns about the safety and welfare of the students inside.

In a statement UCU said: “Onlookers outside the building - including University of Aberdeen students and staff - were extremely concerned about the safety of the students inside the building holding a peaceful protest.

"The instruction from management to place security guards and keep doors locked in an entrance corridor had caused a situation where students and staff were enclosed in a very small space and we were concerned for their safety."

However, a University spokesperson described the situation differently, they said: “Police were called to the University Office this afternoon by our staff following an incident whereby a group of protesters forced their way into the building, leaving staff shaken and distressed and resulting in one staff member being knocked to the ground and having their head trodden on.

“As frightened staff were forcibly pushed aside by the group they protected themselves as best they could but categorically deny inappropriately handling any individuals. We are extremely disappointed with this turn of events.”

The protesting students caught up in the incident deny they pushed security over and say the video “clearly shows that the University's allegations of student violence are unsubstantiated”.

Striking politics lecturer Dr. Malcom Harvey, who was protesting outside at the time, tweeted: "Understand the uni put out a press statement. All I can say is that it must have been written by someone who didn't see it happen."

The Rector of the University of Aberdeen, Maggie Chapman, has also expressed her concern about the way the protesters were treated and stated how it is "clear" from watching the video the member of security who fell over "was not deliberately pushed to the ground by students."

She said: "The University needs to take responsibility for this incident: they promised open access to the occupation. Caroline Inglis (University Secretary) and Mike Greaves (Senior Vice Principal) both signed a note to this effect.

"If they had kept their agreement and maintained open access to the occupation, none of what is seen in the footage would have happened."

A representative for the protesters told The National Student: “Everyone was obviously a bit shaken up, and many of us still are. But morale is high and we've had a great outpouring of help with food and resources from many member of [striking] staff and students.”

The University of Aberdeen told The National Student that "The University is conducting a full review into the events surrounding the incident of 14th March when a group of protestors forced their way into a University building.

They added: "We will work with staff and students to consider all relevant information, including personal accounts and any other relevant media."




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