My article, “Academic Black Shirts Brutally Assault Students in France,” was published here in CounterPunch and here on RED. A special thanks to John-Patrick Schultz for his insightful comments and suggestions.
In scenes reminiscent of Mussolini’s black shirts, a dozen or so militants dressed in black, some wearing ski masks, brutally beat peaceful protesters who were participating in a general assembly while occupying the School of Law and Political Science in Montpellier, France. Armed with Tasers, cudgels with nails, and reinforced punching gloves, the assailants unleashed a bloody assault on the night of March 22, sending three students to the hospital and injuring many more. The security guards at the university stood idly by and watched the beatings, while the police and riot forces remained outside the university and did not enter to prevent the assailants’ attack.
The militants were described by bloodied eyewitnesses as fascists and right-wing extremists. Octave, a student affiliated with Solidaires, affirmed along with others that the Dean of the University, Philippe Pétel, was seen opening a locked door to the amphitheater to let in the private militia, and he did not authorize the police to enter the university according to another eyewitness, Léna. As the protesters were fleeing, the metal security gates were closed, trapping some of them inside of the building, where they continued to be beaten.
Pétel and his black shirts were seen with professors, teaching assistants and other adults celebrating after the attack. He then proceeded to organize the safe escort of the militants out of the university according to other eyewitnesses. In interviews, he said that he was “proud” of the assailants, and he asserted that they were from the university and included students as well as perhaps faculty. This was confirmed by eyewitnesses, who identified a civil law professor and a history of law professor among the black shirts. […]
If we take the fascist assaults in Montpellier as exemplary of the activities of the strong arm of the military-academic complex when it is under threat by those who seek to take back even a modicum of control of the university, we are left with a series of crucial questions. What, we must ask, is the type of law and the ‘science’ of politics being taught in Montpellier, and other universities like it? Who are these black shirt academics who play ‘good cop’ by day by pretending to play by the rules, only to become ‘bad cop’ by night and beat into submission any students who do not passively acquiesce to neoliberal state imperatives (and what does this teach us)? Could there be a more pressing need to take over a university and seize its institutional power, which is obviously in the hands of fascists? Is it possible to imagine a more opportune moment for an insurgent university that rises up and pulls off the masks of those masquerading as good cops? Isn’t the time ripe for educating the educators, from the bottom up, by transforming universities across France into occupied sites of collective education in which power is taken away from academic black shirts and seized by those invested in developing an entirely different understanding of politics and its pedagogy?