Birmingham occupation ended by university

A number of protesters have been evicted from the University of Birmingham building they were occupying in reaction to the suspension of two students

July 31, 2014

Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, University of Birmingham

Birmingham students Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers were suspended until March 2015 for their part in the occupation of the university’s senate chamber last autumn in protest against the university’s alleged lobbying for higher fees and failure to pay its cleaning staff a living wage. 

A third student, Hattie Craig, was given a formal reprimand and told that she also could be suspended if she broke further university regulations in the next six months.

Members of protest movement Defend Education Birmingham occupied the university’s Strathcona Building on 28 July.

As well as demanding the reinstatement of Mr Furse and Ms Rogers and the lifting of the “onerous and inhibitive restrictions” on Ms Craig, the protesters also wanted Birmingham to recognise occupations as “a legitimate form of protest”.

However, the occupation has now been ended after the university used a possession order granted after the earlier occupation to evict the protesters.

In a statement, the university says it did “not take this decision lightly, but will not tolerate illegal behaviour or activities of this kind that significantly disrupt the education of others and divert resources from the rest of the university community”.

It says that more than 200 students taking pre-sessional programmes have been affected by the occupation, and planned renovation work has been delayed.

“The university has a clear policy on freedom of speech and our own students and staff are aware of the wide range of democratic ways in which they can raise legitimate concerns, for example through the student union, staff-student committees or via safe and lawful protests and demonstrations,” the statement says.

Defence Education Birmingham’s website claims that the eviction was carried out by two vans of police officers and more than 25 bailiffs.

John Holland, quoted on the site as a “student inside the occupation”, said: “The break-in to the occupation was frightening for the occupiers, who even resorted to jumping out of windows in fear and having to leave behind their possessions.

“The police also seized people’s property despite there being no criminal investigation under way. The university clearly had no qualms about taking the harshest of measures against these activists.”

A spokesman for the movement previously told Times Higher Education that if the protesters were evicted from the Strathcona building, they would find another one to occupy.

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