Open letter to UWE Students’ Union ‘leadership’: Your silencing and obstruction of student campaigners is inadmissible. Relay information about our campaign NOW!

Dear President, VPs and top managers of UWE Students’ Union (UWESU),

Since last November, you have been obstructing and silencing UWE students and UWESU members who have been leading a campaign against the ‘UWE arms fair’. You have  broken all your commitments to support UWE students who protested the ‘UWE arms fair’ on 20 November, which may have prevented or reduced considerable hostility against peaceful protests where students’ health and safety and democratic right to protest became a fundamental issue. You have also been obstructing a follow-up campaign to hold UWE, UWESU and the Western Eye accountable for their actions and inaction on the day and since.

Student campaigners have recently launched a petition calling for a transparent, comprehensive and independent review of the repression against an “impeccable” UWE student protest on campus. This coming Monday, a national action bringing together UWE students, Bristol Against the Arms Trade and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade student network will also take place at UWE Bristol to call for an independent review and to highlight UWE’s proximity with military institutions and industries.

Several journalists have already reported on our campaign, from UWE’s journalism students (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ClAdIlas5Y) to a national newspaper (http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-4499-UWE-students-try-to-halt-campus-arms-fair#.U0ckr6Jv7XY).  Meanwhile, even though UWESU’s president and VPs, the WesternEye, HubRadio and the SU’s web team received our press releases as well as requests to relay our open letter to Governors, our petition and our action call-out, no information has been relayed by UWESU to the student body about this campaign.

Your silencing and your obstruction of our campaigning efforts is quite simply inadmissible and you will be held to account for that. The SU’s media are not your property and this contradicts all your claims that you are committed to facilitate participation and that you lead a democratic union. As an immediate demand, we request that you IMMEDIATELY relay information about our campaign:

  • We demand that you immediately, and not later than 2pm today, send a direct email to all UWE students with information about, and links to the action on campus this coming Monday and the petition.
  • We demand that you post information about the open letter, the petition and the action-call-out on all the SU’s media channels (UWESU’s facebook, UWESU’s twitter, UWESU’s website, announcements on Hubradio, post on the WesternEye’s website, WesternEye’s twitter) immediately, and not later than 2pm today.

We hold you responsible for organising the apathy of the student body and we will keep campaigning to hold you accountable for your action and inactions, particularly your silencing and obstruction of members who put considerable work to address very important issues for the benefit of all.

Yours sincerely,
Campaigning UWE students

SU_occupied_by_students

UWE Students’ Union office occupied by campaigning students on 11 February 2011 in protest with the SU’s obstruction and silencing about a student-led campaign against tuition fees and the Higher Education Reform (despite UWESU being mandated by the AGM to make that their primary campaign).

STUDENTS DEMAND UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND (UWE) REVIEW OF REPRESSION OF ANTI-ARMS PROTESTS

STUDENTS DEMAND UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND (UWE) REVIEW OF REPRESSION OF ANTI-ARMS PROTESTS

  • Students write to UWE Governors to demand an independent review of repression against ‘UWE arms fair’ protests on 20 November 2013

  • Students have called for a national protest on UWE campus, Bristol, on 14 April

For immediate release: 10 April 2014

Students at the University of West of England (UWE) have written an open letter to UWE board of governors to demand a review of the repressive security at the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) arms fair that was held at UWE on 20 November 2013.

DPRTE is an annual military business and arms fair. The event was attended by a number of major arms companies; including AgustaWestland, Boeing and Babcock.

The campaigners have released an open letter to UWE’s Board of Governors demanding a transparent, comprehensive and independent review into the conduct of the university and the policing of the event. The students have listed a series of concerns, including:

  • UWE’s decision to rent out the Exhibition and Conference Centre to DPRTE contradicting some of the university’s claimed commitments, especially regarding social justice.

  • Steve West, UWE’s Vice-Chancellor, was present at the protest and was witnessed intimidating protesters, and chasing up policemen to carry out his threats.

  • Annette Hennessy, UWE’s Head of Security, was seen taking pictures of protesters without their consent and without justification.

  • The collaboration between the police and UWE. UWE allowed a police Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) to gather video evidence on non-protesting students at the very heart of the University, far from any protest and after all protests had ceased.

This follows an open letter that students sent to Steve West, UWE’s Vice-Chancellor in the aftermath of the protests. The Vice-Chancellor ignored the letter and subsequent reminders.

The students are supported by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). The CAAT University Coordinator Holly-Rae Smith said: “We are very concerned that UWE ever felt that the arms trade has any place on their campus. The allegations of repression and intimidation are very serious and are totally at odds with you would expect from a respected university like UWE. How can it claim to welcome democratic protests and champion progressive social change when it is siding with the arms companies?”

The students have also called a protest on campus on Monday 14th April to mark the Global Day of Action Against Military Spending (GDAAMS).

Holly-Rae continued: The national action at UWE Bristol on 14 April is to raise awareness about what has been happening on campus. We will also be joining our allies in denouncing the outrageous level of military spending that is fuelling the business of death, at the time as we are seeing deep and widespread cuts to welfare and education”.

ENDS

Notes for editors and journalists:

Contact: uwe.better.together@gmail.com

Take action to end the scandal of military spending

Last month, another £570 million of public money for upgrading the UK’s
nuclear weapons was announced. Budget Day confirmed that when it comes to
military spending, there’s no such thing as austerity: it was set at a huge
£38 billion for the coming year.

The government thinks we have £700 million to subsidise arms exports,
£2.5 billion for new fighter jets, £6.2 billion for new aircraft carriers
and £100 billion to renew nuclear weapons… so why are homelessness,
hunger and inequality so rapidly on the rise?

It is a scandal that 1 in 4 children in the UK grow up in poverty. It is a
disgrace that 20,000 disabled people will lose support for the basics in
life when the Independent Living Fund closes. It is outrageous that
thirteen times more people are relying on foodbanks to survive than did
five years ago.

It is all the more scandalous when you realise that the UK’s military
spending is among the highest in the world.

It’s time to shift priorities. This is the message we want to communicate
on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending on Monday 14th April.
However you share that message, you can contribute to a global wave of
action to turn the tide on military spending.

– Share these powerful spending comparisons on Twitter and Facebook:
https://twitter.com/wwwcaatorguk/status/453127237558996992
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=770966339594264&set=a.151099088247662.25060.130378516986386

– Order postcards and posters to share the message in your area. Reply to
this email with your address and how many you would like.

– Come along to an action on 14th April:
http://demilitarize.org.uk/events-2/

– Take a look at the guide for setting up a simple event in your town:
http://demilitarize.org.uk/plan-your-action/

– Visit www.demilitarize.org.uk for more resources, links to petitions and
ideas for action!

Together we can show that it’s time to shift priorities and redirect
military spending to the things we really need.

Thank you for your support,

Anne-Marie
Campaign Against Arms Trade

P.S. CAAT is always working hard to influence political parties’ policies
for the better. There’s an opportunity to help shape the Labour Party’s
global policy coming up. If you are active in your local constituency
Labour Party, please contact ann@caat.org.uk to find out how you can help.

P.P.S. Near London on 12th April? CAAT’s got together with Stop the Arms
Fair to run an exciting training day on skills for creative activism.
Please let us know if you plan to come!
http://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/events/skills-for-creative-activism/

P.P.S. Interested in the references for the stats in this email? You can
find them here:
http://demilitarize.org.uk/take-action-to-end-the-scandal-of-military-spending/