By Isabel Ringrose
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City and Islington College students stage walkout over stop and search

This article is over 1 years, 8 months old
Students at the north London college are angry that management claimed they felt safer with the policy
Issue 2797
A picture of the walkout at City and Islington College in Angel, north London, pupils stand on both sides of the road

The walkout at City and Islington College in Angel, north London

Hundreds of students at City and Islington College in north London walked out on Monday to protest against stop and search measures.

Students turned up to college a few weeks ago only to be met by private security staff and a buzzer system. Management didn’t make any formal announcements to students or parents about the new measures.

Student Thalir explained that students who came to the college at 9am on that day were made to queue, and every tenth student was stopped and searched. “It was like an airport security search,” she told Socialist Worker. “You had to have your arms out and you were patted down. 

“They looked through everyone’s bags. One black student even had scissors taken from him.  Items were confiscated and the students were told their parents would be spoken to. 

“At least three students were suspended for not agreeing to go through the search—if you didn’t cooperate you were told you can’t enter college. It happened all of a sudden—we don’t know where it came from.”

Thalir is part of the student union and contacted senior members of the college for information, but on the call “they avoided speaking about it”. “They brushed it aside and ignored me,” she said. “This is completely invasive—it gives us no privacy at all.”

Protester and student Mimi told Socialist Worker, “It’s terrible—the situation has created a really bad feeling. The way we’ve been treated is guilty until proven innocent. We know that in society randomised searches are not truly randomised. This is bringing those tensions into school where we should be treated with respect and feel safe in a caring environment.”

Mimi added there is no clear reason why the college leaders made this decision. “Senior management clearly doesn’t care about people within school—students or staff,” she said. 

Although the search is supposedly random, students worry that some black students will be targeted more than other, reinforcing racist stereotypes. “We feel like criminals, not students,” Thalir explained. “The college staff are on our side, they’re enraged by this. But the senior leaders are distant from us and drawing a clear line that they’re above us. They’re not even seen around the college. It shows there’s no trust at all. It feels like we’re just numbers and money to them.”

Thalir added that the revelations over Child Q “definitely angered us more.” The 15 year old black girl was strip searched at a school by Met police in the neighbouring borough of Hackney. 

“That case shows how serious it can get and how quickly it can escalate,” said Thalir. “Many people are scared—especially black people in college. There wasn’t a female guard there. Apparently one senior manager was supervising, but she wasn’t seen. With only male guards searching and going through your stuff giving you no choice it makes us uncomfortable.”

Mimi agreed. “The Child Q case has exemplified how systems like this abuse children and create potential for abuse. That was definitely on top of people’s minds today,” she said.

She explained that the protest against the stop and search was organised via social media and posters. “It felt great, there was a real sense of unity,” she said.

Local people came to support the protest, and cars honked their horns in agreement. Thalir added, “It felt empowering to protest. As students you don’t feel like you have power to say how you’re feeling or that your voice is being heard.

“But being there with other students who are equally angry didn’t feel lonely. Everyone understood what to do and came together and voiced the same opinion until we were heard.”

The sixth form students now plan to hold another protest with students from the campus’ other facilities. This will increase the numbers of students fighting back. It’s inspiring that students are standing up against horrific stop and search measures that criminalise and discriminate.  

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