At the weekend Subcity Update brought you the report that the National Union of Students President: Aaron Porter had been “kettled” by students allegedly affiliated to the Glasgow Anti-cuts Network and the Free Hetherington. Porter had been attending the Young Labour conference in an unofficial capacity when a group of protesters- one wearing a riot helmet – surrounded him and according to reports shouted abuse at him.
University of Glasgow security teams came to assist Porter who was seen to be “visibly distressed” before he broke free and ran away from both security and the protesters. It was two hours later when Porter finally made his return to the conference where delegates saw him “holding his head in his hands,” and “upset”.
Porter has become a “hate figure” during his tenure as NUS president for his perceived inaction over student fees and unwillingness to support students during direct action protests.
The now infamous “kettling” episode had drawn speculation that it would provoke the University into removing the Free Hetherington occupiers. However a University spokesman stated that as there had been no complaint made by Aaron Porter over the incident, no action would be taken against students involved. Strathclyde Police also confirmed that they were aware of the incident but until Aaron Porter himself made a complaint no charges or further action would be brought.
This comes despite many concerned students beginning letter and email campaigns to try and spur the University into action. Due to the controversy both Student Unions: the QMU and GUU put out a joint statement distancing themselves from the Free Hetherington and ACAN.
Iain Smith QMU president gave this statement to Subcity Update earlier in the week. “The Unions chose to release the statement as we felt there was no other choice but to distance ourselves from the kind of action deemed appropriate by members of the Hetherington movement.
As the statement says, the Board of Management of both Unions were elected to serve the interest of the members of the unions first and foremost, and being associated to action such as that which occurred on February 12th could prove detrimental to the ongoing consultation process regarding the cuts which myself and Colin Woods intend to be as much a part of as possible.
It was felt by the QM Board of Management specifically, that without any kind of hierarchical structure in place and no accountability for any of the actions of those involved with the Hetherington movement, that any working relationship with them at this time was not possible.”
GUU President Colin Woods also echoed the feelings of his QMU counterpart speaking to Subcity Update yesterday. “I think that the actions of those involved have dealt the anti-cuts movement as well as the Hetherington Occupation a major blow, and have alienated a large proportion of students on campus.
I completely support both movements in principle, but I would not condone the intimidatory and militant action of a minority of those involved; and I can only hope that that minority does not undermine the hard work put in by the organisers of today’s march.”
The SRC also distanced itself with President Tommy Gore expressing sadness at the anti-cuts movement at Glasgow University being tarred by the actions of a small minority.
The Free Hetherington later issued a statement in response to this article: “As has been made clear already, the action on Saturday February 12th was undertaken by a group of autonomous activists, not the Free Hetherington, nor ACAN; and as far as we are concerned the matter is closed…These concerns aside, it is always best to finish on a high note. As such we would like to extend our gratitude to all staff and students who turned out to make Wednesday’s protest such a success.”
Aaron Porter and the NUS have so far refused to comment.
Report by Kirsteen Fraser