On Tuesday 23rd May, the Guild of Students held a vigil to remember the victims of the terrorist attack that took place the previous night in ManchesterWritten by Emily Darby & Joseph Timan on 23rd May 2017
Edward Bauer VPE Arrested
Vice President of Education Edward Bauer has been arrested, charged with causing danger to road users and remanded in custody following an incident at the Liberal Democrats conference in Birmingham
Vice President of Education Edward Bauer has been arrested, charged with causing danger to road users and remanded in custody following an incident at the Liberal Democrats conference in Birmingham. Bauer, 22, was arrested with two other students last Friday after scaling a bridge linking the International Convention Centre and Hyatt Hotel on Broad Street before unfurling a banner reading “Traitors Not Welcome – Hate Clegg Love NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts)”. As a result of the banner debris reportedly fell onto the road below endangering road users and pedestrians.
The men, charged with causing danger to road traffic users, were subsequently held in custody over the weekend as their membership of an “organisation” (believed to be the NCAFC) suggested they could not be trusted not to cause danger to the public. Appearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Monday, all three pleaded not guilty to the charges, denying they had caused danger to road users, with the prosecution accepting in court that “no damage or injury was caused” during the incident. However whilst the 19-year-old and 21-year-old were bailed on the conditions they do not enter Birmingham city centre until their trial, Bauer was remanded in custody. He will remain in custody until Monday September 26th, when a second hearing will decide whether or not he is granted bail before his trial in late October.
A spokesperson for the University of Birmingham said, “Universities are places of free speech and we respect the rights of students and staff to protest peacefully within the law. However, our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff and the wider community and we are concerned where any protest poses a potential hazard to protesters or bystanders, or causes unwarranted disruptions to study or work, or damage to property whether on campus or elsewhere. This protest was not organised or endorsed by the University of Birmingham or its Guild of Students.”
Michael Chessum NCAFC (National campaign against fees and cuts) and NUS NEC (National Union of Students National Executive Committee) said, “It is appalling that students taking part in peaceful protest are being victimised in this way. It is ludicrous that anyone would be remanded in custody for a minor traffic charge – and it’s clear that the behaviour of the police and the court is an attempt to intimidate and muzzle protests against the Liberal Democrats’ betrayal of education. Whether it’s kettles, intimidation, or tactical charges – it is becoming increasingly difficult for students and young people to say that they have a meaningful right to protest.”
As a result of his arrest speculation has been mounting over the possible university sanctions Bauer will face, with Guild President Mark Harrop meeting Vice-Chancellor David Eastwood on Tuesday evening to discuss the situation. It is believed discussions between the Guild and the Vice-Chancellor are still at an initial stage, with Bauer yet to go on trial.
Although Bauer, having graduated last year, is technically no longer a student at the university, as a sabbatical officer it is possible he may face the same non-academic misconduct reprimands as a student under the University of Birmingham Student Charter. The charter states that students must act “as responsible ambassadors for the University through their good conduct and by ensuring that their actions do not have an adverse impact on the University’s reputation”, with those failing to do so facing possible sanctions ranging from a fine and community service to suspension or expulsion from the university. In the case of expulsion, it is not yet clear how the Guild of Students would approach the sensitive issue of replacing him.
In addition to his arrest the issue of Bauer’s close affiliation with the NCAFC movement and the extent to which his ties with student movements have compromised the impartiality of the Guild has also been raised. The constitution of the Guild of Students (as stated in the University of Birmingham Code of Practice) says that “it may not support political or other causes”, although “this does not prevent student members from collecting and raising funds privately for the support of any lawful campaigns.” Prior to Bauer’s arrest he posted on his official Guild VPED Facebook account, “Watch this video as a perfect reminder of their (Lib Dems) betrayal of an entire generation and how powerful our campaign of direct action against them was. We can do it again!” Concern has been voiced that these views are personal and do not accurately represent the views of the Guild or students, and therefore Bauer should reserve these comments for publication via his personal Facebook account, not in an official Guild capacity. Will Miéville-Hawkins, President of the Liberal Democrats Society said, “The University of Birmingham Liberal Democrats respect the right to free assembly, speech and protest. However Mr. Bauer's actions this weekend show his contempt for democracy and free association and bring the Guild into disrepute.”
Alice Swift, a 20 year old International Relations with Political Science student, attended the banner drop and offered the following comment for Redbrick.
"Ed Bauer has been remanded in custody for a banner that displays the opinion of so many students, that the Liberal Democrats are traitors for going back on their word on the increase in tuition fees. He was elected on the back of promising to be a campaigning Vice President of Education and to actively fight against the unfair and unnecessary rise in tuition fees. Students like me voted for Ed to have a voice in the debate surrounding the attack on our education and it would be a disgrace if University management were to sack an elected student representative. I would be distraught to see him sacked and I know so many more students would be too."