Socialist Worker

Essex cops target opposition to school’s military programme

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2752

The photograph that Michael uploaded to Twitter showing school students carrying rifles.

The photograph that Michael uploaded to Twitter showing school students carrying rifles.


Does challenging a school’s policies warrant a visit from the cops?

Essex police seem to think so.

UCU union member Michael tweeted a picture on Wednesday of last week showing children carrying guns as part of a cadet course at Burnt Mill Academy. Four days later, a police officer was on his doorstep.

“I was absolutely stunned when I saw there was a policeman,” Michael told Socialist Worker. “He said he was there because the academy had been in touch with him about me.”

Michael captured the exchange on video and posted the footage on YouTube. He has had “a number of messages of support” since.

“My feeling was that it was very important to show we weren’t intimidated,” he explained.

“It’s a clear message to the school that they cannot use the police as their enforcers. And it’s not appropriate for police to behave in a political way to stop dissent.”

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The officer claimed to be visiting over concerns that children could be identified. Yet Michael had covered up faces so that this wasn’t possible.

In response to his asking the officer if any crime had been committed, the officer was forced to say no.

Jan, Michael’s partner and a former teacher, told Socialist Worker, “The cop told us we need to talk to the school if we have concerns–but we can’t. If you contact them, they just don’t respond.”

“The academy has become impossible to communicate with,” she added.

The school grounds are behind several houses, including Michael and Jan’s. They described the shock at seeing children carrying large rifles close to their homes.

“It was extremely alarming,” said Jan. “Adults in uniform were showing them how to handle guns and then they were each given a gun.

“We heard these popping noises, so they were obviously trying them out.”

The school has boasted that “a number of students with special educational needs and disabilities and those who need support with behaviour and emotional issues” are taking the cadet course.

“The school openly says it targets vulnerable children for the training,” said Jan. “That’s what is so disgraceful. You can teach children skills without putting guns in their hands.”

Michael said he was “fuming with rage” at how the school apparently tried to use police to “harass” him. And he warned that this could become much more common.

“If the Tories get their police bill through, there will be cops on many more people’s doorsteps,” he said. “It’s a taste of things to come if we don’t kill the bill.”

Watch Michael take on the cop at bit.ly/Michael2604

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