[LETTER] ‘TU, why was a peaceful demonstration hindered?’

On behalf of several students and PhD’s the TU Delft Feminists demand a statement from the TU Delft Executive Board ‘on the repression of freedom of speech on campus’. Find out why.

(Photo: Tomas van Dijk)

On February 20th, a group of 25 people demonstrated against the presence of the gun lobby and weapon industry in TU Delft’s academic education. The demonstration was announced in advance and was peaceful. The group consisted of people from the Stop the War on Migrants group from Amsterdam as well as students, PhDs, lecturers and researchers from TU Delft. The demonstrators had some banners and information flyers.

An equal number of police officers and riot police attended the demonstration, causing a threatening and unsafe situation. People who looked ‘different’ were denied access to the Aula, a public space. Police officers entered the IDE faculty to demand the identification of people who were drinking coffee before the demonstration. This is illegal: the police may only ask for identification in the public space if there is probable cause, and only while a demonstration is taking place. On these grounds, one person refused to identify themselves and was arrested on TU Delft property and held in prison for two days.

The remaining demonstrators were forced to walk to a cordoned off area that had been set up without consultation; a place far removed from the original location. The demonstrators were threatened with arrest if they did not go to the area. This level of restriction of the right to demonstrate is only legal in cases where serious disorder is feared, something that a peaceful protest with 25 people, banners and flyers cannot cause. This restriction left international members of TU Delft feeling compelled to leave the demonstration for their own safety. The organisers also received a fine for not announcing the demonstration even though it was in fact announced. Furthermore, the police photographed everyone at the demonstration without their consent.

TU Delft should foster and support debate on its ethical and political responsibilities

Those of us from the TU Delft community who were part of the demonstration felt very unsafe and intimidated in expressing our opinions on the campus of TU Delft.

Those of us from the TU Delft community who were passing by felt unsafe getting close or staying around to ask questions about our own university on our own campus.

Those of us from the TU Delft community who found out about it later are concerned about the repressive response and how it limits dialogue, reflection and the democratic debate that a university should facilitate.

TU Delft, as an educational body, should foster and support debate on its ethical and political responsibilities, whether this debate is initiated by our university community or by the wider society. The institution’s statement in Delta does not address this responsibility. All the TU Delft spokesperson said is that the administration sees no need to reconsider its relationship with Thales and Airbus. A statement like this stifles debate on campus about TU Delft’s relationship with these companies or the arms industry in general. The issue raised is shut down before any discussion can take place, which is an unacceptable response to legitimate disagreement.

We demand an explanation as to why this peaceful demonstration, which included many people from TU Delft, was severely hindered by overblown police presence and why TU Delft did not make any effort to guarantee the freedom of expression on our campus.

Supported by the TU Delft Feminists Delft, March 1st 2018

This text is written collectively by several students and PhDs from the university. After their experiences during the protest last week the authors – especially the people from the international community – wanted to prevent any targeted retailiation. This is why they have reached out to the TU Delft Feminists and requested to publish the text under the name of the “TU Delft Feminists”-collective instead of their own personal names.
The TU Delft Feminists support the action and support this request. If you’d like to get more involved you can contact us through or TU Delft Feminists facebook page.

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