Archive for the ‘United Kingdom’ Category

What happened on Saturday…

30 March 2011

from ReallyOpenUniversity:

There are surprisingly few write ups of Saturday, the March 26th TUC [Trade Union Congress] Demo in London. Perhaps many have been feeling the way the ROU has been and is unable to work out quite what happened.

The media portrayal of events has to be expected. Sure, the police seem to have gone on a PR mission to make themselves not look like arseholes. They did a press conference with that lovely, entirely uncritical, ‘civil liberty’ group Liberty. They also embedded a Guardian journalist into the TSG (the riot cops notorious for brutality) in an ‘I’m a real boy’ piece (1). But journalists have difficulty escaping the template narrative when it snows let alone when a load of people storm around London in an attempt to confront a social relationship.

So we should not be surprised that the media did not escape the narrative already laid down for them. One day there may be something different from the opening paragraph ‘It started as a peaceful protest…’, but that day was not today. But whilst we consume these stories afterward, and reject or accept their interpretations according to our own ideologies and experiences, we should be more concerned about the following of pre-existing narratives elsewhere. We must critically examine how WE played out Saturday. Because what really happened on Saturday looked a lot like this:

  • The trade union leadership organised a boring march on which they touted their lovely expensive corporate logos attached to flags and balloons
  • Trotskyites sold (or at least attempted to sell) a shit load of newspapers
  • The Police were arseholes (albeit tweeting arseholes who were thin on numbers and allowed a fair few acts of criminal damage/damage limitation)
  • The (media defined) anarchists looked scary and smashed symbols of capitalism in a symbolic manner.
  • Some ‘non-violent’ direct action types did a ‘non-violent’ direct action type thing and then got fucked by aforementioned arseholes. [Luxury store, Fortnum and Mason, was occupied by UK Uncut folks]
  • Ed Miliband gave an appalling and dishonest speech where he made out the suffragettes, anti-apartheid and civil rights movement didn’t arson, bomb and shoot their way to victory but instead, probably just went on boring marches and then voted for the previous government to come back and fuck them more gently.

This is not to say that Saturday was entirely crap. We may have followed pre-existing narratives but we did it big time. The march was huge, depending on which unreliable source you believe it was probably between 400,000– 500,000 people. This is not to be downplayed – this may have just been a petition with feet, but it was a vast number of people rejecting the current Big Story that ‘these cuts are necessary’ and, likewise, ‘we’re in this together’. A massive turnout from around the country certainly suggests a level of anger and anti-apathy. What is harder to extrapolate is how angry, and how critical the crowd are. Apart from the one line sound bites from the newspapers we still do not really know what these 500,000 people think.

UK Uncut got too large a turnout for their occupation of Fortnum & Mason (who sell picnic hampers for £25,000 which we can only assume is a basket of coke in addition to skipping a shed load of tax) with huge amounts of people having to instead sit outside. Clearly UK Uncut has had some success in allowing people to step slightly outside the realm of officially permitted protest, and more seasoned protestors alongside raging youth spotted some potential here. The mass arrest may come as a shock to many UK Uncut-ers but the release of footage from legal observers showing occupiers been promised safe passage by a chief inspector may at least fuck up the cops PR plan (2).

UKUncut are now in a troublesome situation of attempting to be the bridge between what has been dismissed as the violent minority by not only the media but by the TUC leadership, and the less militant protest element who attended the official demonstration and whom their actions are surely designed to appeal to with their easy rhetoric of ‘tax the rich’ and actions of low level civil disobedience. Again, it is impossible to say how big this gulf really is, if at all, because the conversations have not been had.

As for those ‘hijacking anarchists’, the black bloc did not do too badly either! At times it was huge and actually worked like a black bloc. Moving quickly, breaking up and reforming, it [continuously] outwitted the police and hit high profile targets. It was perhaps the first properly working black bloc in British history. Almost every black bloc-er looked surprised to see so many other people had come dressed in the same costume. Meanwhile UK Uncut looked a bit like Climate Camp in new(ish) clothing.

But the tactics, graffiti and chants were predictable. Whereas at Millbank FE students looked confused when a minority of experienced activists tried to start chants of ‘no justice, no peace…’ preferring to start their own renditions of KRS-One and NWA, on Saturday all the old clichés were what followed. It was a complete nostalgia fest, with old activists greeting each other delightedly on the streets before some more running at or away from the police. The kicked in windows and the sprayed ‘Class War’ seemed more timid than the multiplicity of signs on the previous student demos. Of exceptional cringe worthy note would be shouting at families in Starbucks, and, the somewhat novel but mysterious, kicking in Ann Summers [ed: A statement has now been made by the group (3)]. Planet Organic and Sssh were, dear reader, not subjected to the same greetings.

This is not to say that the perhaps 500 strong ‘black bloc’ were the knuckle trailing thugs that the Daily Mail would like to portray. This was our version of The Royal Wedding and it was a time for celebration and reunion in the form of a ruck. Smashing up the Ritz certainly resonates across the general public in lieu of a Camilla to poke. But seriously lacking was any explanation of why this was appropriate, of why there was this rage. And without an explanatory voice, even when the casual observer FEELS empathetic towards a specific act, this can easily be overridden by the rhetoric of the dominant discourse. The black bloc were running without a soundtrack and over the top was the oppositional narrative. This makes it ‘their story’ and not ours.

The various groups seemed happy to stick to the ground on which they were comfortable each with its own narrative to follow. Whilst at times people physically mixed, each stuck more or less to their own tactics and rhetoric. This made it easy to portray these protestors as not only separate from each other, but actually in opposition to each other. One was not the other. But we were. Wearing a mask can be an insurance against losing your job, just like being in a union, and many of us opted in for both. But we did not explain ourselves, so how can anyone know? Increasing this artificial difference, each group afterward then claims to be the ones doing the real political activity but in reality these things are to no more or less political than each other. WHY, for example, is smashing the Ritz more politicised an act than marching from A to B?

What is needed is a new politics which link these different groups (and events) together as well as with those currently on the outside of resistance to the cuts. We need new tactics which link the pre-existing diversity of tactics, and then some. And alongside those tactics we need to explain ourselves to those we do more than act in solidarity with, but are, indeed, one with.

The day before the march a friend of the ROU over at Shift wrote about the imminent protest:

“Seeking to emulate previous, tired forms of politics (be that isolated direct action or trade union marches) is a certain failure, new forms of doing – those which escape our current understanding or familiarity –might be the key to gaining traction in the here and now. The old doesn’t work and so we shouldn’t be afraid to move towards new forms of politics, however uncertain their effects may be.” (full article: http://reallyopenuniversity.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/increasing-the-uncertainty-beyond-activism-as-usual/)

We had fun on Saturday and the events of the day should not be dismissed as irrelevant. However if we are to succeed in the battle against government attacks and the restructuring of social relations in the interests of capital – both in the university and elsewhere – we must move beyond the pre-existing narratives towards less certain forms of politics.

We cannot forget the present however: 149 will face court, most arrested in F&M, many young, many having never before experienced the brutal arm of the law. Green & Black Cross deserve some bigging up for all their work. Absolute solidarity with all the accused!

1:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2011/mar/28/march-alternative-police-video

2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgRK8TALUA8

3. http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/03/476879

[See also, “A letter to UK Uncutters from the ‘violent minority’“]

UCU Strike and Occupations

23 March 2011

UNITED KINGDOM – In solidarity with the University and College Union (UCU) strike on March 21st, students at the University College London (UCL), Glasgow University, Goldsmiths, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of East Anglia, Edinburgh University, and the University of Kent have occupied buildings. The UCU represents lecturers, tutors, and support staff.

from ROU:

Students at Goldsmiths and UCL went into occupation in solidarity with the strike on Monday. They were joined on Tuesday by UEA, Kent, Edinburgh and UEL. In Glasgow, the Hetherington occupation (the longest anti-cuts occupation, running since 1st of Febuary) fell victim to a heavy-handed eviction by police, including 80 officers, dogs units and a helicopter. Several students were injured with one having to go to hospital for concussion. In response to this violent treatment, the occupiers joined a crowd of hundreds and marched to the main university building where they occupied the Senate. At the time of writing SOAS has also just gone into occupation.

Leeds Trinity University College occupied

7 January 2011

Leeds, UK – On January 4th, students at the Leeds Trinity University College occupied the letter box offices, later moving to the Senior Common Room. Last fall, students through out the UK began protesting the tripling of tuition nationwide. In November and December, hundreds of thousands took to the streets; thousands smashed and raided the lobby of the conservative party headquarters; hundreds suffered the winter weather for several hours, kettled in by police and denied exit, to allegedly preempt property destruction; and over four dozen universities were occupied. The occupiers are inviting folks to join them and fight the cuts. The occupiers are inviting folks to join them and continue to fight the cuts.

UK Occupations Holding it Down Over Break

17 December 2010

UNITED KINGDOM – Almost 50 university and college occupations have taken place since November 10th. The vast majority of them have now been suspended, or have made plans to leave this weekend. But two of them, that we know of, are planning to stay in over the holiday period: University of Kent Canterbury and Camberwell College of Art (South-East London).

These will need all our solidarity! We encourage all our supporters to get in touch with the occupations or just to go along and show some support.
(via EducationActivistNetwork)

Kent:

 

Camberwell:

Four Theses on the Invisible University

11 December 2010

from reallyopenuniversity:

A radical critique of the university and student activism from the Regents of the Invisible University. Dedicated to our comrades at the University of California.

Thesis 0.1: The University is a Machine in the Network of Capitalism & Empire.

Does anyone still pretend that earning a degree is anything other than job training? Can professors still hide that their knowledge is commodified? Is it not clear that the university is the lap-dog of the state?

Thesis 0.2: There is No Crisis. It is all Business as Usual.

We cry for the loss of a dream that never was. The university was never ours. After shaking off the unessential it will rise from the grave merely mutated and continue to serve its master.

Thesis 0.3: The University Cannot be Saved.

Stop occupying dead space. Our demands merely echo through the empty corridors. There is nothing here for us to take-back or transform, except their administration of an infertile garden.

Thesis 0.4: Defect to the Invisible University!

Abandon the university! Join the university! We are building a new community in the shell of the old: an universitas magistrorum et scholarium, a community of teachers and scholars.

From: http://j-dv.org/stpa/2010/12/preliminary-notes-on-the-charter-of-the-invisible-university/

Call to Europe, from to Rome to London: this is just the beginning!

9 December 2010
from UniRiot:
…You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows: occupation of universities everywhere in Europe, blockage of the cities, manif sauvage, rage. This is the answer of a generation to whom they want to cut the future with debts for studying, cuts of welfare state and increasing of tuition fees.

The determination of thousand of students in London, the rage of who assault the Italian Senate house against the austerity and the education cuts, has opened the present time: this is because the future is something to gain that start when you decide collectively to take risk and to struggle.
The extraordinary struggles that we are living have the capacity to show a present with an intensity that exceed the linearity of the time, that refuse our precarity condition: it is an assault to the future!

We don’t want to get into debt, we don’t want to pay more fees to study in London as well as in Paris, Wien, Rome, Athens, Madrid, Dublin, Lisbon. This European movement is about refusing austerity policies, refusing to get into debt for these miserable politicians. Que se vayan todos!

What is happening nowadays in Rome first spread out in Athens and Paris, then in Dublin and London: it is the irruption of a movement who speaks a common language, the same young generation in revolt, who inhabits different cities but shares the same determination to struggle, «floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee».

We have to meet each other and invent a new political grammar against the weakness of the Nation-state and their strategy to face the crisis: their receipt is just austerity, cuts and debt.

In Italy we have occupied not only universities, but also blocked motorways and the mobility of the country in order to circulate struggles outside the national borders and coming in Europe and beyond. The circulation of struggles is living within the Book Block and the wild demonstration in London, Paris and Rome.

This autumn we are living a real European student movement, that is various and radical, really heterogeneous. Its common reclaim comes from a protest that is born in the middle of the crisis, and that represents the most courageous answer. It is a struggle composed by different struggles, heterogeneous temporalities that reclaim more scholarships for student and a public university for everyone.

Within the book block a new generation recognized and found itself in the protest. Today in lots of cities the Italian student movement is showing something more than just solidarity: this is because your struggle is our struggle and all around Europe students are against the increasing of fees, the privatisation of the university and the education cuts.  You are not alone in UK: an European event, a new generation do not want to stop. We have the force whom want to change the world and we have the intelligence to do it. It is just the beginning!

We propose to students, researchers, precarious workers and PhD students to build up together an European meeting at the beginning of the 2011, to continue the struggle, to transform this wind in a tempest!

UK Universities Reoccupied

30 November 2010

UNITED KINGDOM – Thousands of students took part in further demonstrations today against the austerity measures on education. During (and even before) last week’s national day of action on Wednesday, around two dozen universities were occupied and hundreds of thousands of other demonstrators took to the streets. Although many occupations have since been evicted, others have continued to hold down the occupations for the past six days. Today, more universities were occupied. Here is a partial list:

  • University College of London – reoccupied
  • Sheffield – reoccupied.
  • Aberdeen University
  • University of St. Andrews
  • Strathclyde University – reoccupied.
  • University of Nottingham

UK Universities Occupied

24 November 2010

UNITED KINGDOM – Thousands of students are protesting today against fee hikes and cuts to education throughout the UK today. (Estimates at 130,000). These protests comes on the heel of a 50k strong march through London which ended in the smashing of the Tory party lobby, only two weeks ago. Although reports are still trickling in (see indymedia: UK, London, Bristol), perhaps the most notable events of the day include the multiple university occupations, police brutality, and the ongoing police tactic of “kettling“. As of this writing (around 9:30pm in London), reportedly thousands of people are still being kettled in London, including children. These demonstrators have been kettled now for over 8 hours in the winter cold. [Edit: it appears those kettled were released sometime around 10:30pm in London]

Abandoned police van in London.

Live news from the Guardian. A map of the actions here. See Anti-Cuts for some updates.

Approximately 24 universities have been occupied in the past few days, including:

  • Cambridge University – Old Schools Commons occupied on the 25th – DefendEd.
  • University of Sheffield – Sheffield Occupation. (Occupation ended Thursday, as security forced them out; they temporarily occupied the vice-chancellor’s office afterwords but were forced to leave when more police arrived. They’re preparing for the day of action next week.)
  • Birmingham University – Twitter feed here. (Occupation ended during the evening of the 24th.)
  • University of Warwick – Arts Center Lecture Theatre occupied – Warwick Against Cuts.
  • University of Leeds – ~400 occupy Michael Sadler building; According to SocialistWorkerUK, ~700 occupying Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre – OccupiedLeeds.
  • Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Oxford – Radcliffe Camera occupied –  Occupied Oxford. (Occupation ended on Thursday evening as police battered down the doors and evicted demonstrators).
  • University College London – Bodleian Library occupied – UCLoccupation.
  • University of East London
  • Newcastle University – 60 occupy Fine Arts Building – Newcastle Uni occupation.
  • Edinburgh University – Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 2 occupied – Edinburgh Uni Anti-Cuts.
  • University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
  • University of Dundee – Tower building occupied [source]
  • London Southbank University – Language Centre occupied –  Save South Bank
  • Roehampton University – Grove House occupied – Roe Uni Occupation.
  • University of Essex – Lecture Block occupied
  • Cardiff University – Shandon Lecture Theatre
  • University of Bristol – Anson Rooms of Student Union Building occupied – [from indymedia].
  • University of West England, Bristol – (Main building of Frenchay Campus, occupied as of 22.Nov) – [from indymedia] – UWE Camp for Ed.
  • Manchester Metropolitan University – (50 students occupy Geoffrey Manton Building, Lecture Theatre 7. As of 22.Nov) – MMUoccupation.
  • University of Manchester – Roscoe Building – RoscoeOccupation.
  • Plymouth University – Roland Levinsky Building, Room 008 (occupied as of 23.Nov)
  • School of Oriental and African Studies – Brunei Gallery (occupied as of 22.Nov) – SOASoccupation.
  • Royal Holloway, University London – Sit-in of Picture Gallery Corridor of Founder’s building – RHACC.
  • Also, Lib-Dem deputy leader, Simon Hughes had his office occupied by 30 students from the London School of Economics

Statement from Occupied SOAS

22 November 2010

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE USE
Contact:
Bernard Goyder 07551319742
Elly Badcock 07581418837

Central London college occupied by students over education cuts.

Students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, have today taken over the Brunei Gallery, a central college building, in protest at the Coalition government’s plans to impose £4.3bn cuts to higher education.
SOAS is predicted to face 100% cuts to its teaching budget as it specialises in languages and humanities subjects.
Following a mass meeting of the Students’ Union last week, which voted to support occupations at the college, protestors gathered on campus at Monday lunchtime.
The Brunei Gallery was taken over shortly after by cheering students.
The demands are as follows:

Occupation Statement

“At a huge Emergency General Meeting (EGM) last week, SOAS students voted in favour of occupation as part of our fight against Coalition government plans to cut higher education funding and raise tuition fees. Today, over sixty students have occupied the Brunei Suite at SOAS. This number is growing.

We stand in solidarity with other University occupations across the country and all those resisting the government’s draconian and unnecessary cuts. We encourage all students to participate in the National Day of Action against fees and cuts on 24th November. We call on the University administration to join us in our fight to defend education. In particular, we demand:

No victimisation of participants in this occupation and in previous and future student actions against fees and cuts.

That students who participate in the walk-out organised on the 24th of November are not marked as absent from lectures or tutorials on that day

Greater transparency in the School’s budget and in the School’s financial decisions.

That Paul Webley, SOAS Director, releases a statement openly condemning all cuts to higher education and any rise in tuition fees, and writes to the Government in the form of an open letter asking Vice-Chancellors across the country to unite against all threats to Higher Education.

That Paul Webley and SOAS management refuse to budget for the cuts and commit not to raise tuition fees.

We also request that all lecturers devote 15 minutes of lecture time to discuss the impact of the cuts in their classes throughout this week.

The occupation space is open to all students and staff and we encourage everyone to participate in occupation activities”

SOAS occupied

22 November 2010

LONDON, England – The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has just occupied the Brunei Gallery in protest at rising education fees and swingeing cuts. The occupation was proposed and decided on at an emergency general meeting of the Student’s Union last week.

(via SOASoccupation2010)

University of Sussex Occupation Ends

19 November 2010

from DefendSussex:

This 5 day occupation of Fulton building has come to an end!
It was a statement to this coalition government that the events of Nov 10th were by no means isolated.We have used this time and space to organise, mobilise and prepare for the 24th of November. This national day of action will see resistance on an unprecedented scale.
We have galvanised other universities and educational establishments to take similar action, and we are grateful for the many messages of support that we have received.
We stand firm on our request that our universities’ management speak out against these government plans which have the potential to destroy education as we know it.
On leaving this occupation we will join the local newspapers picket lines, standing in solidarity with others suffering from cuts.
Watch this space…

University of Sussex Occupied

15 November 2010

BRIGHTON, England – The University of Sussex is occupied as of Monday, November 15.

from DefendSussex:

This afternoon, over 170 students occupied the lecture theatre in the Fulton building at the University of Sussex in protest of the trebling of tuition fees and the attack on our education system.

In light of Wednesday’s demonstration, which saw 52,000 people come out in opposition to the government’s proposed cuts to education and raising of fees, we feel it is necessary for further action to consolidate the efforts made so far and push on in the opposition to these ideologically motivated cuts to both education specifically and public services as a whole.

We reject the notion that these cuts are necessary or for the benefit of society. There are viable alternatives which are not being explored. While the government has suggested that ‘we are all in this together’, we completely reject this and are insulted that these cuts are being pushed through alongside reductions in corporate tax. We feel these cuts are targeting those who are most vulnerable in our society.

Furthermore, not only are these cuts damaging our current education, but are changing the face of the education system as we know it. The hole in finances left by government cuts will inevitably be filled by private interest. This marketization of education will destroy the prospect of free and critical academic enquiry, on which universities should be based. The trebling of tuition fees will further exclude another swathe of society and make university accessible only to the rich.

We reject the media manipulation of the occupation of Millbank. The cost of the damage to 30 Millbank is less than insignificant when set against the damage of lost livelihoods and destruction of public services for future generations.

This occupation recognises that Aaron Porter’s statements condemning the demonstration are counter-productive and serve only to divide and segregate the movement. We are disappointed that, as a national representative of students, Aaron Porter’s statements have detracted from the real issue at hand by focusing on the events at Millbank Tower.

We believe that this Tory led coalition government has no mandate for lifting the cap on tuition fees. Nick Clegg has openly manipulated student voters in his campaign for election, and following the recent exposure of plans to drop his pledge to reject any rise in tuition fees, this occupation condemns his dishonesty and undemocratic methods.
Education is a right, not a privilege.

– We demand the University of Sussex management makes a statement condemning all cuts to higher education and rise in tuition fees
– We are opposed to all cuts to public services
– We oppose a rise in tuition fees
– We call for solidarity and support for those arrested or victimised on Wednesday’s demonstration
– We stand in solidarity with others taking action, both nationally and internationally, in the fight against austerity measures.
– We call for all other university, college and school students and staff to strike and occupy in defence of the future of our education system, and to participate in the national day of action on the 24th November 2010.

50,000 Students Protest in London; Conservative Party HQ Raided

10 November 2010

LONDON, England – Around 50,000 students marched through London today protesting the tuition increases, a protest organized by the National Union of Students. Thousands of students have since broken off from the main march and raided Millbank Tower, where the Conservative Party is headquartered. Students broke the windows on the main floor, and hundreds filled the lobby of the building. Police beat back the students, but as of this writing, students are still in the courtyard of the building. So far, 5 police have been reportedly injured; a total of 10 police and students have been taken to the hospital. Protesters have thrown bottles and other items, some on fire, at the police line. A bonfire has been lit in the courtyard. Picket signs have been lit on fire. Demonstrators have thrown fire extinguishers and other items at the police from the roof of the Millbank Tower.

The president of the NUS has condemned the property destruction and students fighting back the police as “disgusting”, while many students present at the building are reporting the necessity of displaying the anger of students.

Update: As of around 5:30pm in London, the demonstrators have largely dissipated.

Watch a video of the initial occupation here.

Goldsmiths occupied for 24hrs

4 November 2010

one banner reads, "Defend Education Occupy!"

LONDON, England – Deptford hall at the University of London, Goldsmiths was occupied for 24hrs beginning on November 3rd. More photos here.

MDX Philosophy Students & Staff Suspended

21 May 2010

from saveMDXphil:

Some Middlesex University Philosophy students, along with Philosophy professors Peter Osborne and Peter Hallward, were suspended from the University this afternoon. Hallward and Osborne were issued with letters announcing their suspension from the University with immediate effect, pending investigation into their involvement in the recent campus occupations. The suspension notice blocks them from entering University premises or contacting in any way University students and employees without the permission of Dean Ed Esche (e.esche@mdx.ac.uk) or a member of the University’s Executive.

The Campaign,
Friday afternoon, 21 May 2010.