One of the leading organisers of next Wednesday’s Financial Fools’ Day protests was last night suspended from his role as Professor of Anthropology at the University of East London, on full pay.
Chris Knight, who has been a lecturer in anthropology at the university since 1989, and professor since 2000, was informed of his suspension yesterday evening, and was told it was because of an interview he gave to a newspaper this week in which he is quoted as “inciting criminal action, specifically violence against policemen and women and damage to banking institutions”.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Knight was pictured with a placard bearing the slogan “Eat the bankers”, and quoted as saying: “If they [the police] want violence, they’ll get it”. He is also quoted by the Standard as advising bankers that on April 1 “if you’re thinking of coming in, my advice is don’t”.
Knight, along with fellow UEL anthropologist Elizabeth Power and former Liberal Democrat councillor turned activist Marina Pepper, set up the G-20meltdown.org website and began to host meetings to which they invited other green and anarchist groups.
Knight told the Guardian last night that he was doing everything possible to make sure there was no violence next week. He said he had set up the protest group with theatrical rather than violent aims.
“I’m doing everything possible to make sure that all the anger of the middle classes doesn’t turn into violence. That’s why we do all this play-acting. We’re being nice to the bankers – we’re burning them as effigies. Of course we don’t want violence. If there’s a huge ruck, the press will photograph it, and our vision about a different planet will not get reported.”
He added: “But it’s going to be hard. The message to police is ‘if you press your nuclear button, I’ll press mine’. It sounds like a threat? Well, yeah – don’t do it. If you want violence, you’ll get it.
Er if he was inciting criminal action isn’t that for the police to investigate and deal with, rather than his employer? It should be intellectually offensive as well for a university to act against the freedom of speech of one of its staff! What do you think?