Complete breakdown of law and order, QC says

31 January 1969

The Times carries this lengthy report today on the latest developments at the LSE:

The London School of Economics was granted High Court orders yesterday against 13 people said to be ringleaders in the troubles that have led to the school’s closure. Injunctions stopping the 13 entering or remaining on the school premises without the authorities’ consent, damaging the school or acting in a disorderly manner, or interfering with the school’s management, were made by Mr. Justice Buckley. The orders will remain in force until today week. The judge said any of the defendants – none of whom was in court or represented -who felt aggrieved by the order could go to court at any time and ask to have the order cancelled.

Mr. Michael O’Connell Stranders, QC, for the school, said that the school authorities had shown exemplary patience in dealing with the troubles from start to finish. He suggested that references by students to “direct action” might be taken to be a euphemism for violence. He added: ” The closure of the school has been brought about directly as a result of this complete breakdown of law and order and complete disregard of the authorities, and the use of violence – which is quite plainly criminal violence.”   He could not commit the school authorities as to a precise date for reopening the school. The earliest might be Tuesday.

A sworn statement by Dr Walter Adams, the school’s principal, said he had received reports that Taussig and Jordan had deliberately damaged a wall of the school’s premises and he had preferred charges against them. He added: ” I desire to open the school at the earliest date and will do so as soon as I am assured that the disorder and damage to the school’s property is not likely to be repeated.”

More than a dozen members of the LSE staff had sworn statements, which were put in as evidence, of meetings and other student activities in which various defendants had been concerned. The judge observed that the evidence showed a greater degree of participation by some defendants than by others. Of the 13 defendants, nine who are students of the school will not be stopped from pursuing their studies there. Two of the defendants are former students and one -a girl-was said to have nothing to do with the school.

The defendants are: David Adelstein, of Mecklenburg Square WC; David George Bouvier, of Fairlawn Avenue, Bexleyheath, Kent; Miss Valerie Greenwood, of Elliston Road, Bristol; Paul Hoch, of Brunswick Park Gardens, N; Geoffrey Jordan of Randall Crescent, Hampstead, NW ; Richard Kuper, of Falkland Road, NW; Andre A G Nagliatti, of Parma Crescent, SW; John Rose, of North End Road, NW; Victor J Schoenbach, of Churston Mansions, Gray’s Inn Road, WC; David Trevor Slaney, of Dartmouth Park Hill, NW; Michael Thomas Taussig, of Blenheim Crescent, W; Martin Tomkinson, of Highbury Hill, N; and Royston Laurence Wolfe, of Christchurch Avenue, NW.

Mr. Stranders read a sworn statement by Lord Robbins, chairman of the school’s court of governors which said: “The standing committee decided on January 28 to take these proceedings in the belief that they would lessen the risk of a repetition of violence upon the opening of the school. The school does not employ staff specifically for the purpose of protecting the safety of their buildings and property against organized violence. It does not even have the system of proctors and bulldogs employed by older universities. Although the academic staff accept some responsibility for helping to maintain discipline, it is no part of their duty to act as special constables. The standing committee is most anxious to reopen the school as soon as possible and it is felt that the protection of injunctions against the present defendants who are regarded as the ringleaders will help to deter further violence. Internal disciplinary action is being taken against certain members of the junior academic staff and it is not thought appropriate to join them in these proceedings, at any rate at this stage.

Mr John Alcock, academic secretary of the school, said in a sworn statement that there were about 3,000 students, of whom 1,700 were undergraduates and the rest postgraduates. Since November, 1966, student unrest had caused severe interference with the running and management of the school and resulted in the present closure. The cost of running the school was about £40,000 a week and its closure involved substantial loss.

At the end of October, 1966, Mr Adelstein, then president of the student union, wrote to The Times about Dr Walter Adams’s appoint ment as director of studies. He sent the letter in spite of being re fused permission to use the school’s address. When disciplinary action was pending against him a large number of students boycotted lectures and demonstrated. The board of discipline decided not to impose a penalty on Mr Adelstein.

In January, 1967, a meeting of students was called in the name of the Graduate Students’ Association to discuss the appointment of Dr Adams. Permission was at first given by the school for the meeting to use the old theatre. This was withdrawn when it became known that direct action to prevent Dr Adams from taking up his post was to be discussed. A crowd of students, however, broke into the theatre, pushing past the porters guarding the doors. One of the porters died of a heart attack. Disciplinary action was taken against six students. Mr. Adelstein and another student were suspended until the end of the academic year. These suspensions were placed in abeyance by the court of governors after Mr. Adelstein and his colleague had expressed regret and given certain assurances.

Last May the students staged a sit-in in the school’s entrance hall to show “solidarity” with students rioting in Paris. Then they spent the night in the school. No disciplinary action followed.

Last October, when the big Grosvenor Square demonstration over Vietnam and other current topics was about to be held, 200 students occupied the premises. On Friday October 25, Dr. Adams declared the school closed, but students refused to leave and continued to occupy the premises until midnight on Sunday, October 27. Some of the occupants were not students. A medical room was set up and some people from the demonstration were brought to the school for treatment. A warning was given but no disciplinary action was taken.

Last summer, to increase the school’s security, it was decided to install gates inside the building so that areas containing valuable property could be cut off. During the past few months there had been an increasing pattern of agitation by a minority of students which eventually focused itself on the gates and led to last Friday’s episode.

Mr. Alcock referred to a visit on December 5 by Professor Trevor-Roper, who was invited to make the annual oration in the old theatre. On that day a students’ union newspaper called Beaver violently attacked the director and the school governors. Mr Stranders told the judge he would not read the student document advocating “creative vandalism “. It was “violent, inciting rubbish “.

Mr. Stranders said the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conference was the source of the next set of troubles. Militant students demanded that the LSE publish a list of its investments in Rhodesia and South Africa and that the governors divest themselves of directorships in companies with interests in Rhodesia or resign. They threatened direct action if these demands were not met.

Suddenly the centre of agitation changed to the subject of the gates and an emergency meeting of the union declared that if the school did not remove the gates within seven days the union would do so. An emergency meeting of the union attended by about 800 students on January 23 countermanded the earlier motion by 370 votes to 320.

On the morning of January 24 Dr Adams and a number of the staff met a group of students to discuss the gates. He told them that one of the gates had now been found to be unnecessary and would be removed immediately. He undertook to call meetings of the school’s building and accommodation committees to discuss the gates further. Later the same day a further emergency meeting of the union was held and a motion passed by 280 votes to 240 stating the union’s intention to remove the gates immediately. Some students immediately began to remove the gates with crowbars, pickaxes and a sledge-hammer.

Mr Alcock saw Mr Slaney carrying a gate across Houghton Street. The police were called and four arrests made. During that week a pamphlet had been circulated in the school advocating “creative vandalism”. Dr. Adams decided at 10 o’clock that night to close the school. Mr Bouvier and Mr Jordan were former students, but Mr Greenwood had no connexion with the school. The other defendants were students.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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