Workers Party activists Heleyni Pratley and Joel Cosgrove have been trespassed from Victoria University for two years for participating in a student protest against University fee rises, some of them being of over 90%. The student action was similar to fee-setting protests of the last few years; a small group in the Hunter building chamber holding signs and interjecting speakers. At this year’s protest Joel threw a solitary egg which did not hit anyone. Heleyni threw nothing and instead stood prominently holding a Workers Party banner calling for “free education from kindergarten to PhD”. They and other activists cleaned up the eggshells before peacefully leaving the premises.
Joel has been trespassed for throwing an egg which he cleaned up afterwards. Heleyni has been trespassed for nothing other than speaking her mind. She is being publicly attacked by the university for exercising her democratic right to protest and express free speech. She is being punished to make an example to anybody else, student or otherwise, who is considering standing up to an increasingly repressive university administration at Victoria.
Joel was initially trespassed over the phone by a man named Darryl, who refused to give his last name or any way of verifying his statement, although he later received trespass notices twice in his mail box.
Heleyni was met at her door by two men sent by the university, who demanded to know where Joel was. When asked to leave, the two attempted to physically force their way into the property, against Heleyni’s repeated requests for them to go, causing her to feel so threatened that she felt she had to slam the door shut and lock it to protect herself from the threat of violence. While this was happening they were yelling through the door in an abusive, aggressive manner that as she was Joel’s girlfriend she was also trespassed. Escaping in a friend’s car, Heleyni was shadowed for sometime by the two men who followed her in a large, black SUV.
There is a clear pattern emerging of Victoria University administration’s opposition to basic democracy and free speech on campus and also political targeting of particular activists. Earlier this year, for instance, Workers Party activist Ian Anderson was expelled for filming an anti-war protest on campus.
This extreme intolerance by university authorities of minimal student protest is unreasonable and unhealthy. It needs to be resisted and halted. Please join us in calling for the immediate lifting of all trespasses by Victoria University and an end to harrasment of all activists.
We’re asking for a practical hand of solidarity to be extended. Please discuss this issue in your organization, move a motion of solidarity, make a press statement, write to the Victoria Vice Chancellor and sign our statement. For a copy of the statement, contact firstname.lastname@example.org