Occupiers removed from the Simon Building
In the early hours of March 22, student occupiers were removed from the Simon Building on the 37th day of their occupation. The members were removed by bailiffs authorised by the Manchester High Courts after a hearing on March 20.
Officers of Manchester High Court solely acted to remove the occupiers. However, occupiers state that this was an unprecedented escalation of action taken against the students, also stating that their well-being has not been put at the forefront of the University’s discussion-making.
The University of Manchester said that they had given the occupiers several notices of legal action and were forced to take them to court.
At the hearing, the court gave the occupiers possession of the South Campus, and the University the possession of the Main University Campus. It was ruled that the occupiers would have to leave the Simon Building.
However, those occupying stated that they would not leave the Simon Building unless forced to by bailiffs or when the University negotiated with the strikers directly.
🚨🚨 BREAKING: UoM have just used dozens of private baliffs to physically evict student protesters. Shame on @OfficialUoM that they would rather do this than consider basic demands for affordable rent. Any pretence that these scum care about student welfare is clearly bullshit. pic.twitter.com/OUOrcSi65H— UoM Rent Strike 2023 (@rentstrikeUoM) March 22, 2023
Occupiers and Rent Strikers from UoM Rent Strike and MCR Leftist Action further escalated on 21 March as they protested all over the university.
They protested the Alliance Manchester Business School and entered the John Owens building. In both places, upper University management was meeting.
It is reported that the delegates at the meeting were forced to stay in the buildings till 9pm as protestors took control of the outside of the buildings.
A member of MCR Leftist Action commented: “We went into John Owens today to hand a letter to Nancy about why we’ve gone on Rent Strike and why we’ve occupied over the last few weeks. We targeted the specific committee that sets the rents for the halls of accommodation. Unfortunately, Nancy refused to engage with us or take a letter.”
“We remained in John Owens waiting for Nancy for around an hour before leaving. Today’s action has proven that we can take any building and that not even a court order will stop us from fighting for students. If the University continues to refuse to listen to students, we will continue to escalate our actions.”
As a result of the escalations on March 21, and the occupiers of the Simon Building not leaving campus, bailiffs were called to remove the occupiers. They entered campus at 6 am on the following day with the Greater Manchester Police (GMP).
The Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was not directly involved in any of the actions, but were seen by standing and recording videos of the eviction procedures. According to a GMP spokesperson: “GMP were only in attendance to prevent any breach of the peace and had no hands-on involvement in this incident. All executive action was conducted and run by private bailiffs it seems.”
University and College Union (UCU) members were on their last day of strike action before the spring holiday. They have often been in solidarity with the occupiers and rent strikers.
One member said that this action shows, “how insecure the university is about their staff and students, who by the way make the university.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “This morning officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order, on a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since 13 February 2023.
“This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on 15 March 2023. The Court granted the University a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers.
“We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.”
The Manchester Students’ Union published a comment stating, that they were “appalled” that the University took such action to evict students. The statement also says that the University has failed to take any learnings from the 2020 occupations.
The statement adds: “The University has chosen to exercise the coercive force of the state against their own students, rather than reach a measured resolution. This use of force will only do more to widen the gap between students and the University, restarting the cycle of trauma and conflict that has gripped students here for 3 years. […]
We urge the University to immediately cease its violent and threatening approach to individuals who are protesting their miserable material conditions. These are not the actions of an institution of knowledge. These are not the actions of an institution which prides itself on social responsibility and humanity”