By Tom Grant
Student protestors from the Manchester Leftist Action and UoM Rent Strike groups have left their occupation of the John Owens Building.
The group left at 10am this morning, before joining the UCU picket line in front of the Whitworth Hall Arch, setting off flares and displaying a banner that said “This is just a warning”.
Twenty minutes prior to their exit from the John Owens Building, occupiers were seen lowering black bin bags out of the windows which were retrieved by students and taken away. It is unclear what was in the bags, but it seems as though all of the protestors left the building with their own possessions on them.
Manchester Leftist Action and UoM Rent Strike began their occupation last Thursday, entering the building in the early hours of the morning and barricading themselves in.
In an interview after their departure from the building, an occupier confirmed that the Simon Building occupation is ongoing and there are currently plans of escalation action.
They went on to say that they’ve “not given up”, and this is “just the beginning of what we have planned”. They confirmed that the action they have planned is “aimed towards senior management” and that they “feel they can do more organising on the outside than they can on the inside [of John Owens Building]”.
Despite their departure from John Owens, the University has not given any indication that they are going to negotiate with the groups or listen to their demands. Manchester Leftist Action and UoM Rent Strike are asking the University give in to the demands of the University Colleges Union (UCU) and those set out by the UoM Rent Strike, including a 30% rent reduction for students in halls.
Their demands also include giving £1,500 to each student to ensure their government maintenance loan rises with inflation. An occupier of the Samuel Alexander Building, who went by the name ‘M’, said last week that the University could cover this as they have over £1billion in reserves. When questioned about the source of this information, they replied that they “don’t personally know to be honest, but this is what I’ve been told from other people”.
The former John Owens-occupier said that the group will “not just roll over” to the University’s action, after they were issued a letter on Tuesday that demanded they leave the building by 4pm that day or face disciplinary action. The University were contacted for comment on the authenticity of the letter on Tuesday, but have failed to release a statement regarding this.
Manchester Leftist Action and UoM Rent Strike reportedly coincided their departure of the building with today’s planned UCU Strike Action, so that they could join the staff on the picket line, as this is “the most important thing”.
The group said they “were happy to be on the outside” of the occupation, and that “occupation’s are never the most straight forward thing”.
The University of Manchester have been contacted for comment on their departure.
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