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University of Essex students demonstrate against the military

Pete Simpson | 04.11.2007 05:00 | Anti-militarism | Iraq | Terror War | Cambridge | London

A few dozen students at the University of Essex came together this week to protest at the military recruiting on their campus. This direct action is part of the University students on going campaign to stop the war in Iraq and stop the University investing students money in the Arms Trade.

Earlier this week, a few dozen students from the University of Essex, took action against the imperialist military. The demonstration was organised by Dominic Kavakeb, Essex University Student Respect President and Campaigns Officer of the Students' Union, and was intended to raise awareness about the issue.

Two attempts at the Union's Council meetings had been made in the last five years to officially ban the military from Students' Union events and lobby the University to take similar action. However as these had failed, due to the perceived right-wing influence making up the majority of the hierarchical organisation, more and more students are coming to the opinion that direct action is the only way to achieve such results. The demonstration was also attended by four Union Executive members, showing the strength the increased radicalism has brought to the student community.

The University has a history of radicalisation, and a group calling itself Free Essex, aligned with Student Respect, are determined to bring back those days in order to win progressive results in all areas of university life. Free Essex supported the demonstration, but was frustrated not to be able to take more direct action as protesters were banned from going near the army stalls. Some students were however able to make their voices heard to the officers at the stall and were promptly threatened with removal by security. Free Essex have also criticised the presence of ShellStart on the University Campus.

Many leaflets were however handed out and the military appeared to have an unsuccessful day. In the same week Free Essex and Student Respect have launched a campaign to end compulsory Zero Tolerance of late coursework and contested Students' Union elections. They were successful in getting nine progressive candidates elected, including two more on the Union Executive, and Dominic Kavakeb winning a place at the NUS national and regional conferences. Other independent progressive candidates were also elected. In the longer term Essex students hope to "win back" their Students' Union.

University of Essex students are calling for more Student Union members to take such action in solidarity and suggest that "only by taking direct action and taking part can we win back our Unions from the clique of 'apolitical' right-wing influenced students that so often run them." It is hoped that this is in conjunction with a continuation of direct action and is used to increase political awareness amongst students.

Free Essex can be found on Facebook and call for hearts that beat to a radical rhythm to unite, organise and mobilise.

Pete Simpson
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  1. An imperialist military, indeed? — Haig, D.