Security guard charged over student ‘attack’

Student protesters stage a sit-in at Edinburgh University's Charles Stewart House. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Student protesters stage a sit-in at Edinburgh University's Charles Stewart House. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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A SECURITY guard has been charged after a protester was allegedly thrown to the ground and choked outside a student-occupied building belonging to Edinburgh University.

It is understood a demonstrator, who was among those gathered outside Charles Stewart House in Chambers Street during yesterday’s incident, is also facing charges.

University leaders say they support our right to protest yet they take action that proves the opposite

Kirsty Haigh

The building has been occupied by students from the People and Planet group for more than a week over the university’s recent decision not to divest from fossil fuels.

Footage posted on YouTube and Facebook appears to show a security guard dragging a demonstrator away before falling on top of him and putting a hand around his throat.

Protesters and student leaders branded the alleged assault an “outrage” and demanded that Edinburgh University leaders overhaul their security arrangements.

Eric Lai, one of the occupiers, said: “The university need to change their approach, allowing open access to the building and engaging with the politics of why we’re here, rather than just covering their ears to both the demands of students and staff, and the desperate urgency of tackling climate change.

“Until they move their money out of fossil fuels, we’re going nowhere.”

Kirsty Haigh, of People and Planet, said the use of private security personnel was “unnecessary and inappropriate”.

“Any time [the university leaders] have said they support our right to protest, they have taken action that has proved the opposite,” she added.

Around 15 protesters gathered at 8am yesterday to peacefully picket Charles Stewart House – which houses Edinburgh University’s finance department – after being refused access to the occupation within its central lobby.

In a joint statement, Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) president Briana Pegado, together with vice-presidents Tasha Boardman, Eve Livingston and Dash Sekhar, said: “We condemn any violence towards our students and remain outraged at this assault. We have therefore raised the incident shown in the footage with the university as a matter of serious concern and demanded that they urgently review their security arrangements.”

Edinburgh University leaders – who hired private guards in a bid to control the occupation – said they “deeply” regretted the incident.

And they said security arrangements were being reviewed in response to the “evolving situation”.

A spokesman said: “We continue to support the right of students to peacefully and lawfully demonstrate and the university is using private security outside its buildings in Chambers Street in order to secure the safety of staff and students during the occupation.”

A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed two men had been arrested and charged. She said: “The incident happened outside a university building where a student occupation is under way. A report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com