The Oxford University Labour Club has voted to condemn protesters for chanting “abuse” at police. The club passed a motion on Thursday night to “condemn the abuse of peaceful police officers at any protest” and “to refrain from taking part in any abusive chants whenever OULC attends protests.” The motion, brought by co-chairs elect Grace Davis and Arya Tandon, comes in response to concerns voiced by members at a recent social event.
Davis told Cherwell: “The anti-police chants were not constructive to the protest, and fundamentally went against the values we hold as Labour members. “You can believe that there are institutional problems with the police whilst still condemning the abuse of individual police officers who are fundamentally just workers who deserve not to suffer abuse at work. “I’m really glad the membership of OULC agreed with me on this, and that the vote passed unanimously.”
The motion cited recent protests at the Oxford Union against the platforming of Marion Maréchal Le Pen and Steve Bannon. It condemned the decision to platform the far-right figures, but took issue with the behaviour of some people involved with the Le Pen protest.
The motion stated: “Police are working people who do not deserve to suffer abuse whilst working peacefully. […] At the Marion Marechal protest, police suffered abuse, such as being referred to as animals and as Nazis.” The move was interpreted as a factional swipe at the left by some members.
Former OULC Campaigns Officer Andrew Peak told Cherwell: “I wasn’t able to make the meeting, but I’m very concerned by this motion, and the fact that after seeing police get physical with protesters and protect Le Pen the proposers seem to take their side.
“The police exist to protect property relations and suppress the labour movement, and the idea that the same institution that attacked striking miners at Orgreave and shot Mark Duggan deserves our support is ludicrous.”
At the meeting, an amendent was added by OULC Social Secretary and Disabilities Rep Isabella Welch.
Welch told Cherwell: “I amended the motion to make it clear that OULC absolutely wants to criticise the police when it’s necessary and doesn’t distract from the main issues we’re protesting. “We are allowed to put forward anti-police chants when they are relevant and not filled with simple insults. “We shouldn’t forget that no government is guiltless of using the police to unjustly shut down strikes and protests (think of the docker strikes during the Atlee government), and OULC absolutely wants to reform and discuss the police in a constructive manner.”
OULC member and student activist Atticus Stonestrom, told Cherwell: “This motion utterly ignores the uniquely reactionary societal role that police play, and their pivotal contributions in shutting down labour unrest, infiltrating socialist groups, crush- ing strikes, and oppressing and dividing the working class.
“They are the most immediate repressive arm of the state, and thus by definition are a conservative force that protects the prevailing order and defends the propertied classes.
“Indeed racist violence and brutal strike-breaking aren’t a coincidence – they’re an inherent aspect of policing, and have been since its first modern incarnations in strike- breaking militias and armed slave patrols. “For OULC to pass a motion of this nature, which whitewashes not only the inherently oppressive nature of police in class society but also police aggression towards protestors at the Marechal talk – several of whom were violently thrown against walls or dragged into the street when attempting to form a peaceful picket – is shameful.”
At the time of the Le Pen demonstration, one of the organisers, Free Education Oxford said: “The police always bring in massive operations to protect openly fascist speakers and their tiny audiences, speakers who pose a material threat to members of our community.
“In November a similarly enormous police operation ensured Steve Bannon to speak, but the police stood by and watched as two stewards were physically attacked by neo-Nazis who had been emboldened by Bannon’s words. In January, when Marion Marcehal Le Pen came to speak, eight police vans, five horses and countless officers were used to restrict our rights to peacefully protest and to enable Le Pen to spread her hateful ideology.
“We’ve seen again and again that the police are not a neutral institution. They choose who to protect, and it is always the most hateful, the most dangerous elements of society.”
The motion was passed unanimously, although the number of members present only just fulfilled the quorum. Also on the agenda for the EGM, were a decision to campaign to repeal the Vagrancy Act and to make the Club’s finances publicly available at the request of any two members.