Sussex Against Privatisation Press Release:
Blow-by-blow account and pictures of the day:
Last week saw roughly 1000 UK students attend a national protest against privatisation, held at Sussex University. The protest was called by the Sussex Occupation – who have been occupying a conference centre in their university for seven weeks, in protest against the outsourcing of 235 jobs to private companies. The occupation is still there as I write this, but is under immanent threat of eviction. University Management has got the High Court to put an injunction in place – banning any and all protest on campus. In addition they now also have a ‘possession order’ on the occupied building, meaning that it could be invaded by bailiffs at any time. According to their blog ( http://sussexagainstprivatization.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/day-53-no-food-no-water-no-to-privatisation/ ), security are currently refusing to allow any people, or even any food, into the occupation, and have been seen intimidating anyone associated with the protest. Sussex occupiers could use support – so if nothing else, please consider signing their petition against the ban on protests: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/stop-the-protest-ban-at-sussex-university
Here’s a rough summary of the actions that happened during the demo:
– Yellow banners, ribbons, and even swings were put out/installed on campus the night before
– The day began with occupations and pickets of cafes on campus (presumably to stop revenue) – all of which had closed by the start of the demo.
– People arrived in Library Square, many from the university, but also two coaches and more from outside
– During the speeches, a member of staff announced the formation of a ‘pop-up union’. The point of this (iirc) is to combat the ineffectiveness and bureaucracy of trade unions, by setting up a temporary union which is controlled completely by it’s members but still has the legal right to strike, and which dissolves after the struggle it was formed for is over.
– The demo set off and marched around campus, stopping every now and again to cheer people dropping banners from roofs or setting off flares
– Eventually they reached ‘Sussex House’ (main management building), but were denied entry. After a while however the glass doors at the front of the building were smashed (this action has proved controversial!) and people entered, occupying more of the building.
– Police tried to charge in at this point, but were held back by the crowd, and ‘kettled’ (this is a tactic they normally use on US – surrounding protesters and refusing to let anyone leave), amid chants of “cops off campus!”. Some of them put on riot gear, but surprisingly did not hit anyone (possibly because they were very outnumbered, and in the demo there was a book bloc, etc). Once they found a gap in the crowd they ran away and did nothing more than look on awkwardly for the rest of the day. There have still been no arrests to date!
– People left Sussex House to go and reinforce the original occupation. Security was evicted from the entire top floor which was then secured. There was an attempt at a people’s assembly while people from all over the country were still there – but no decisions were made and it was a bit chaotic (to be fair to the Sussex Occupiers – there was very limited time, and they had a lot of other stuff to deal with – the rest of the day was great!). Some people did leave the assembly and take over the rest of the building, which was kept until the evening (when the occupiers voluntarily ceded it so as not to disrupt lectures and teaching).