Manchester Forecast

Photo: Emma Whallett

Climate activists occupy UoM: As it happened

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Student climate activists, the People and Planet society, have occupied various areas of the University of Manchester campus – including outside Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell’s office.

People and Planet say the occupation is due to the University hosting the annual conference of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) which awards European higher education on their sustainability.

Members of the UCU, the trade union which represents university teaching and academic staff, are also participating in the occupation.

Their demands include the University divest from all fossil fuel companies, with People and Planet claiming the University has £11.3 million invested in various extraction firms, including BP and Shell.

The activists say they will occupy the space outside Nancy Rothwell’s office until she speaks to them directly. She is not thought to be in work until Friday, so the protesters will have to stay in the space 24 hours a day.

In a recent interview with The Mancunion, Rothwell said the University “continually review” their investment portfolio, but also said she doesn’t “want to make a gesture, if you like, just to keep some people happy when the bigger issue, and it is a big issue… is that we’ve got to reduce our use of fossil fuels.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The University of Manchester supports the right of any student to protest peacefully and legally. However, our responsibility as a University is to ensure that we do everything we can to minimise disruption to other students and to our staff.”

Tags: Climate, divestment, Nancy Rothwell, people and planet, student action, University of Manchester, uom

12:05 pm

Ethan Davies

Open letter released

The open letter from People and Planet has been released, following the final two protestors leaving the building.

In the letter, People and Planet call on the University’s Senior Leadership Team to “sit down to discuss divestment with us”, and point to the support they received from UCU members, SU Officers, and EAUC Conference attendees.

They also describe the University’s tactics as “heavy handed”, which left the group “no choice but to leave despite having remained peaceful and respectable”.

The occupation lasted for 24 hours.

8:39 am

Ethan Davies

Overnight update

It looks as if only two of the eight original protestors remain. People and Planted tweeted that “due to genuine health concerns” some protestors were forced to leave.

The Mancunion understands People and Planet are preparing an open letter to the University’s leadership.

9:22 pm

Ethan Davies

Video shows SU Officers handing over water

A video posted on Facebook by SU International Students’ Officer Riddi Viswanathan shows her and Education Officer Olivia Meisl passing the eight protestors water through the door, via security.

In the video, the eight protestors are seen telling the Officers that security have treated them well, and also say they “don’t know” when they will leave.

Like Meisl, the protestors appealed for dialogue in the video.

6:12 pm

Ethan Davies

SU tells Uni: Don’t “inadvertently impose a hunger strike”

The Students’ Union (SU) have given their view on the protests, with Education Officer Olivia Meisl commenting: “Regardless of any disagreement on principle, it’s vital that the University offer welfare support to the students involved in this protest. It’s in no one’s interest for the University to inadvertently impose a hunger strike on protesting students; the dispute must not be resolved at the cost of student wellbeing.

“The University prides itself on developing intelligent students that engage with the world around them, and a by-product of that is sometimes they will contest the University’s choices. The University should listen to and engage with these students’ concerns in a constructive manner, and the students should work to listen to the university and the current and historic reasons it’s taken the positions it has.

“Common understanding and dialogue is crucial to a successful student/university partnership, so I hope both sides can find a way to communicate and listen.”

5:45 pm

Ethan Davies

WiFi switched off

People and Planet now say that the WiFi has been switched off in the area they’re in, prompting activists to use data on their phones.

UoM IT services have not tweeted a service interruption notice, and their site currently says the network is working normally, so it does not mean the whole WiFi system has gone down.

It also could mean Emma, who was doing her dissertation whilst protesting, might not be able to continue her research.

4:42 pm

Ethan Davies

Spirits remain high

Despite not being allowed visitors, extra food or water, or the ability to use the toilet, People and Planet remain in high spirits.

They’ve devised a song to the tune of ‘Ten ducks swimming in the water’, but edited the lyrics to better reflect the situation.

Check out the full performance by clicking the tweet’s date below.

3:33 pm

Ethan Davies

Inside the occupation

The Mancunion have spoken directly to Sophie Marriott and Adam Haigh from People and Planet on their next steps.

They say they’ve requested the chance to speak to another member of the University’s Senior Leadership Team, specifically Chief Operating Officer Patrick Hackett, but have been told that it’s not possible.

Marriott said that the eight were “coping” with the latest decision to ban the group from using the toilets, saying she believed they were “doing the right thing”, and had “no other option”.

“We’re broadly cheerful, but verging on frustration because we’ve been so open with the University. All we want is dialogue, we’re not trying to damage or disrupt [anything].

“What we’re actually asking for isn’t too radical, 76 universities have committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Refusing to speak to students [concerned about the environment] whilst the EUAC Conference is on across the road is despicable.”

Adam Haigh, incoming Students’ Union Welfare Officer, and will have to work with the University’s Senior Leadership Team next year, said: “Obviously this might not give [the University] the most positive image of me, but it shows I care about climate and the environment.

“The Uni know they’ll be pushed [on divestment] so know they’ll need to be accountable [for it]”.

When asked if he thought the University were taking a heavy-handed approach, Haigh commented: “It’s an interesting decision. Security have been fine with us, it’s the Senior Leadership Team who are making the decisions.

“At the end of the day, it’s eight people in a corridor”

3:00 pm

Ethan Davies

Toilet access removed

People and Planet have told The Mancunion that the University has taken away their access to the toilets, which they were also using for drinking water.

The group are discussing their next steps.

 

2:55 pm

Ethan Davies

Solidarity demonstration

A solidarity demonstration is underway at Whitworth Arch, with students chalking messages about divestment on the pavement. They’re currently being washed away by the University as quickly as they’re being laid down.

Photo: The Mancunion

Photo: The Mancunion

Photo: The Mancunion

2:40 pm

Ethan Davies

University spokesperson

An update has come in from the University, who say: “The University of Manchester supports the right of any student to protest peacefully and legally. However, our responsibility as a University is to ensure that we do everything we can to minimise disruption to other students and to our staff.”

12:30 pm

Ethan Davies

People and Planet confirm no-food policy

People and Planet have just tweeted confirmation they will not be allowed any more food or any more members to join them during the occupation.

 

12:24 pm

Ethan Davies

Members turned away

People and Planet now say that one of their members have been turned away UoM security.

The security guard passed the food on to the protesters already inside the building that had been brought for them, but told the activists that no more food would be allowed in.

People and Planet told The Mancunion they still plan to occupy the space until Nancy Rothwell speaks to them.

 

12:14 pm

Ethan Davies

Eight students outside Rothwell’s office

People and Planet have told The Mancunion that eight students are currently occupying the space outside Nancy Rothwell’s office, with a ninth on their way.

They have said they’ll be there until Nancy speaks to them in person, which could be as late as Friday – when she returns to the University.

To keep themselves entertained, one student is currently writing her dissertation on Vietnamese protest music, whilst others are playing word games.

Photo: People and Planet

Photo: People and Planet

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