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28th May 2024

Students and public display solidarity with student occupation in face of police presence

Protesters and police gathered outside the building on May 27, but the occupation remains on-going
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Students and public display solidarity with student occupation in face of police presence
Credit: Miles Davenport @ The Mancunion

Police presence at a pro-Palestine protest outside the occupied Whitworth Hall has failed to end the ongoing occupation of the hall.

The Whitworth Hall, which occupiers have renamed the Walid Daqqa Hall, was occupied by pro-Palestine student groups on May 25.

On May 27 at around 7p.m., protesters and occupiers blocked police attempts to enter the building.

A press release from Manchester Leftist Action (MLA) claims that these attempts were to “forcibly gain access” and were aiming to “evict” the occupiers.

A video on social media shows police holding members of the crowd protesting outside Whitworth Hall back from one of the entrances. MLA condemned the escalation by the Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

A University statement denies claims that actions were taken to remove occupiers. The statement further adds that “Greater Manchester Police were in attendance, as is standard procedure for large protests.”

Reporters from The Mancunion observed one tactical aid unit van at the scene.

Police holding back protesters
Police holding back protesters                     Credit: Manchester Leftist Action


Police vehicles lining up by campus
Credit: Manchester Leftist Action

“The students and protesters today,” said MLA in a statement to The Mancunion, “showed how in our movement we never leave anyone behind and that together we will win.”

The student group announced their occupation in an Instagram post. The post outlines that the occupation will end when the “university agree to guarantee no disciplinary action for student activists” and engage in negotiations over their other demands.

The demands are:

  1. UoM must end its partnership with BAE Systems;
  2. UoM must cut ties with Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem;
  3. UoM must adopt a policy ensuring that all research is ethical and doesn’t contribute towards the arms trade;
  4. UoM will not pursue disciplinary action against any students involved in the Encampment, occupations or other protests

The demand against disciplinary action comes after a student was suspended earlier this year for their involvement in the Roscoe building occupation and for making a voice recording of Nancy Rothwell.

In a press release, MLA described that a “group of several dozen students” occupied the building and have barricaded the entrances.

“Protesters are linked to the nearby Encampment of Resistance for Palestine,” the statement outlines.

Pro-Palestine groups have had an encampment on Brunswick Park, which they have since renamed Dr. Adnan Al-Bursh Park, since May 1. MLA claim that over 500 student and community members have been involved with the camp since.

MLA’s press release states that the university “has refused any communication with the camp and has instead chosen to continue to prioritise it’s profitable ties with companies and institutions” connected to the conflict.

On May 27, the University announced their exam contingency plans following the occupation. Exams scheduled for the Whitworth Hall have been moved to University Place.

In regards to the occupation, the University said “We are in discussions with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service about these risks, which go well beyond those we have seen in previous occupations.”

Pro-Palestine action has become more frequent in recent weeks.

On May 13, the University archway and Manchester Museum were vandalised with red paint. UoM Action for Palestine claimed responsibility for this action.

A statement made on May 25 by MLA says: “We have taken the Whitworth Building to escalate our pressure on the University to end its ties with the genocide in Palestine. We have full control of this building which is due to hold hundreds of students for exams next week. We will not leave until the University commit to not disciplining any student protesters and enter negotiations on the other demands.

If students are concerned about the potential impact of this action on their exams they should direct their complaints to the University, which continues to value its profitable links to genocide over the welfare of its students.

A University spokesperson said: “On the evening of Monday 27 May 2024, a large demonstration occurred on campus, which included members of the public, as well as some of our students. Greater Manchester Police were in attendance, as is standard procedure for large protests.

“Despite claims made on social media, no action has been taken to remove those occupying Whitworth Hall, by either our Campus Support and Security staff or Greater Manchester Police.” 

“We have written to the individuals occupying the Whitworth Hall complex, requesting that they vacate the premises to allow student exams to proceed as planned. Unfortunately, they have refused.  

“As a result, we are now activating our well-established exam contingency plans, but it is deeply disappointing that their actions are directly impacting on what is already, for all those undertaking assessments at present, one of the most intense periods in the academic year.” 

Greater Manchester Police responded to queries from The Mancunion, and said that GMP were not asked by the University of Manchester to end the Whitworth Hall occupation.

They added that “we were not attempting to forcibly gain access or evict anyone, we were trying to prevent the secondary protest from entering.”

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