- Michael FarthingVice Chancellor, Sussex University
Student Occupations are not a crime! Rescind the injunction; drop any criminal charges against students
We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the eviction of students occupying Sussex University in opposition to privatisation plans, including the use of up to 100 police. some in full riot gear, accompanied by vans, bailiffs and private security guards to remove protesters from their own campus. The 8 week long occupation has been a source of inspiration for students and staff at Sussex and beyond at a time when education is under attack.
Instead of engaging with the arguments and alternatives being raised by the university community the university management has resorted to the draconian measure of imposing a blanket protest ban (all protest banned without prior consent of university management) until the new academic year referring to the widely supported occupation as "unlawful". This was supported by the courts on the basis that , “whether the occupation of Bramber House has been peaceful or not, there is no arguable legal defence for the protesters. The continuation of the protest would be a breach of the University’s property rights.”
The police have now arrested and charged four students. They are also investigating one student for violent disorder. This charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years. It was used to secure prison sentences against students who opposed the tripling of fees in autumn 2010, including a former University of Sussex student. A student protester Alfie Meadows was charged with violent disorder after the 2010 student protest. A victim of police violence himself, it took Alfie Meadows two years to clear his name of this charge.We will not stand by and watch a repeat of such punishments against students who have had the courage to take a stand in support of education and the welfare of university staff.
As Sussex University staff have stated: "The management’s protestation that it will tolerate “peaceful” protest is an insult to the students and workers whose right to assemble and demonstrate as they see fit has just been suppressed. A right is not a right if it waits on the decision of another. This university is not the property of the management. Without students, lecturers and support staff there is no university. We therefore also hope that today is the beginning of a sustained campaign by students and workers to undermine and repeal this authoritarian measure."
We call on university management to rescind the injunction immediately and for any criminal charges against student protesters to be dropped.
Initiated by Defend the Right to Protest - www.defendtherighttoprotest.org
Supported by Sally Hunt UCU General Secretary, Caroline Lucas MP, Rob French University of Sussex UCU joint vice-president, Maria Da Silva Education officer, Sussex Students' Union, Jelena Timotijevic Convenor, Defend the Right to Protest Campaign, UCU NEC and Brighton UCU, Tom Hickey UCU NEC and Brighton UCU
- Vice Chancellor, Sussex University
Michael Farthing, VC Sussex University
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