A few days ago a video emerged on the internet that shocked thousands: cerebral pulsy sufferer Jody McIntyre being thrown out of his wheelchair and dragged by police across the ground at the student demonstration in Parliament Square last Thursday. At the same protest, Alfie Meadows was smashed in the head by a baton and had to undergo immediate brain surgery. The most disturbing aspects of this news was not only that police initially refused to get him medical attention, but that NUS President Aaron Porter refused to condemn the actions of the police. In total, over 40 protesters were injured or hospitalised because of Met police brutality on the 9th. Where was Aaron Porter, the supposed representative of students across the country?
It is vital that we do not bicker amongst ourselves and let the bigger issues pass us by. But Aaron Porter has spent the past month U-turning (he said the NUS would provide legal support to students – it didn’t) and attacking students who attended the 10th November Millbank demonstration. He apologised to the UCL occupation about his ‘dithering’, and then did nothing to support further demonstrations – successfully proposing a motion refusing to back the 9t December protest in London. While over 30,000 students and activists were defending education in Parliament Square, being kettled for hours in the freezing cold, Porter was at a candle-lit vigil attended by less than 500 people.
25 student unions are required to initiate a vote of confidence and an Extraordinary Conference. Birkbeck SU has put forward a motion calling for his resignation and announcing he has lost the confidence of students, saying he is ‘incapable of leading’ the movement. I think it’s imperative that SUs in and around Cornwall do the same – Cornwall College, University College Falmouth, University of Plymouth and the University of Exeter. This movement needs a leadership that is prepared to stand up for students, to organise, to back us and to truly represent us.
The emails leaked a couple of weeks ago and published in the Telegraph in which Porter backs education cuts and cuts in grants for the poorest students shows that he says one thing to young people and something else to government. If he supports the fight, he has to put that into practise. Otherwise, he appears more like a young Met representative (with Sir Paul Stephenson describing the police violence as ‘splendid’).
FXU and other SUs in the South West – back a vote of no confidence or this generation will be left without a leader we can trust to pave the way.
(Watch the BBC’s shamefully biased interview with Jody McIntyre here)