Student leaders have roundly condemned the “trial by media” of a leading Scottish activist involved in the Millbank protests on November 10.
Bryan Simpson, a fourth year Law student at Strathclyde University, featured prominently in news following an incident at Conservative Party HQ, where he allegedly stole an officer’s hat. It is unclear as to whether he was amoung the 50 people arrested after the protest.
The hat-snatching incident was subsequently featured in several national newspapers, alongside Simpson’s personal information.
Simpson has told Glasgow University Guardian that his family have been harassed by reporters, while other members of the Strathclyde University Anti-Cuts Action Network (ACAN) have reportedly been followed by paparazzi.
After intensive media coverage, the Herald reported on Friday November 12 that Strathclyde University authorities were “poised to take disciplinary action”.
Sean Coyle, a spokesperson for Strathclyde University ACAN, denounced the treatment of Simpson, who was seen as a prominent figure in the university’s anti-cuts movement.
He said: “We condemn unequivocally the campaign of media harassment directed at Bryan, who is a passionate campaigner and well-liked on campus.
“Bryan has not committed any crime, but the media are witch hunting him as a criminal and harassing his family, apparently with the complicity of university management. We demand the student union takes action to protect Bryan from this intrusion.”
Members of ACAN from Strathclyde, Glasgow University, and Glasgow Caledonian University staged an impromptu protest in defence of Simpson on Friday evening outside Strathclyde University’s court meeting.
Phil Whyte, president of Strathclyde University Union, told protestors told that he was not part of any “witch hunt”, and that Court was not planning disciplinary action against any students. Whyte also condemned media reporting of Simpson’s role at Millbank.
As the Guardian went to press, Strathclyde University authorities were unable to comment on specific details regarding the incident, but a spokeswoman for Strathclyde University explained the university’s position on students involved with violent protests.
She said: “The minority who took part in violence did not act with the support of students and will face the consequences through the courts and, where appropriate, through university disciplinary process.”