Sussex given injunction over protests

The University of Sussex has been granted an injunction that it says will pave the way towards ending the seven-week occupation of its Bramber House conference centre.

March 26, 2013

In a statement, the university said the injunction was intended to “prevent a repetition of the kind of violent protest seen on campus” on 25 March, when hundreds of students took part in a demonstration against university privatisation.

The university said the protest, which involved students from both Sussex and unions from around the country, had led to violence and damage to university property.

Organisers maintain that although there was damage to property, the protest was not violent. A statement by the Sussex Against Privatisation campaign added that plans for the event were peaceful and that calling in the police had led to clashes.

“It currently stands that no arrests have been made, no one was injured or hurt during the protest and to use the word ‘violence’ seems seriously misleading,” a spokesman for the campaign told Times Higher Education.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said that damage was caused by protesters to the university buildings before police stepped in to assist university security, and that a conscience decision was made for officers to step back from the protest and not to use force.

The university said the protest on 25 March had been arranged without liaison with the university or the local police, and that it had been advertised in London via posters and online videos inciting aggressive action. 

“We have now embarked on this legal process to prevent a repetition of the type of violent protest we saw at Sussex House on Monday and to pave the way to ending the occupation so that we can restore our conference and teaching space in Bramber House to full use,” said Sussex registrar, John Duffy.

Campaigners claim the injunction prevents not just the occupation but anyone from within the university or beyond from entering or remaining on the campus for the purpose of protest, without consent from the university.

However the university stressed that the steps were taken “specifically around the occupation and the violence we experienced on Monday” and that it was not seeking to prevent peaceful demonstrations which do not involve occupations. 

“We will continue to respect our students’ freedom to demonstrate peacefully on our campus,” a spokeswoman added.

A hearing to decide the university’s right to use its building will be brought before the High Court on March, with campaigners from the Defend the Right to Protest group planning a rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice.  

The occupation of Bramber House is in protest at plans to outsource 235 estates and catering jobs at the institution. On Monday, the National Union of Students expressed solidarity with the occupation on campus and said it strongly opposed the proposed privatisation of services at the university.

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