I was searching for a word to describe seeing a column of riot police, and suddenly I found it: inappropriate. Literally, seeing people with batons, shields, helmets, and leg guards does not fit my image of this campus where I have been walking around for quite a few years. Last Sunday was an unreal sight.

Yet it was not a new sight. In early December 2022, police vans also drove onto the campus to end the occupation of the Sanders Building by climate activists. That situation really got out of hand, and students were dragged out of the building rather roughly.

Back then, I was outside the Sanders Building and saw the students shouting slogans in solidarity with each other, while others were being dragged out by their arms. I teared up. It could be your child being treated this way, holding onto everything you taught them: ideals, standing up for humanity and the planet, and being in solidarity with friends.

The Executive Board felt ‘sick to their stomachs’ that it had to happen this way. Yet it happened again when the Erasmus Building was occupied for the same reason. Here, the demonstrators were escorted out by the police via the stairs.

And now, again. A police force sneaking onto campus from the sides. The students kept chanting and moved closer together. They had promised each other to remain calm and steadfast, and they did. While the police moved in a wide line, like a dark blue snowplough that would sweep everything in its path, the demonstrators linked arms and walked shoulder to shoulder off the site, to everyone’s surprise. Leaving behind the place that – as a spokesperson for the demonstrators put it that afternoon – ‘many of us have come to hold dear in our hearts after ten days’.

The Executive Board reported afterwards that they were relieved that the students ‘voluntarily left the campus’. But that is of course not true. What does ‘voluntary’ mean when the riot police are coming at you? They chose to walk away from the confrontation non-violently, with heads held high and caring for each other. And again, I was moved to tears – it could be your child.