Students who had been occupying a lecture theatre at the University of Nottingham have branded university authorites a "national disgrace" after they were violently evicted by university security. Around 10 security staff used force to remove the occupants into the snow outside. Students were forced to wait in the cold and only alowed in one by one to pick up their belongings. They were forced to give ID in order to be allowed entry.
The occupation of B62 in the Law and Social Science Building at the University of Notttingham was today violently evicted by university security. The occupation which has been taking place since Wednesday is in solidarity with the people of Gaza and is one of a wave of university occupations which have taken place across the UK following the recent Israeli assault against Gaza. Although the occupiers have been clear throughout that they had no intention of disrupting other students' education, the university had refused to follow the lead of Kings College in London and negotiate with the occupying students.
Previous Feature: Nottingham university occupied in solidarity with Gaza
Newswire: Eviction video & post occupation statement from Nottingham Uni | Nottingham University Gaza solidarity occupation violently evicted 1 | 2 | Nottingham Gaza solidarity occupation violently evicted | Nottingham University Authorities: A National Disgrace
Recent Gaza Demonstrations: Nottingham Gaza Emergency Protest 1 | 2 | Gaza Public Meeting at Bobbers Mill Community Centre | Nottingham Gaza Protest 'candle-lit' Vigil 1 | 2 | Nottingham Gaza Protest March Through Nottingham to Market Sq 1 | 2 | Nottingham University Students Occupation in Solidarity with Gaza 1 | 2 | Gaza support protest at Nottingham BBC | Tash's 'Collected' actions Piccys 2009
At approximately six o'clock, Steven Dudderidge, director of student operations and support, Professor David Reilly and Head of Security, Gary Stevens entered B62 and restated their previous statement, made on Friday evening, which called for an end to the occupation and claimed that university authorities would "convene a meeting with the full range of relevant campus societies to promote dialogue around the issue of the Middle East and the recent conflict in Gaza," but only once the occupation ended. Dudderidge then told students that if they did not leave within two minutes security would enter and remove those in the room. No prior warning was given that this ejection would occur. Dudderidge refused to answer any questions or engage with those involved in the occupation
People decided to peacefully sit at the far end of the lecture theatre where most of their belongings were. Around 10 campus security then entered from a different door and dragged people out. Many were roughly assaulted and forced into stress positions causing them to scream out. Some were dropped on the concrete paving slabs outside. While this was happening other security staff protecting the windows outside stood and laughed. Not only was the violence illegal it was also unnecessary as no one was trying to actively resist.
People started to gather outside the car park entrance to the building including many supporters who had responded to emergency calls and texts. The police also arrived although they refused to act on the allegations of assault preferring to firmly enforce the university's will. They refused to facilitate those who had been assaulted in identifying the security staff who had assaulted them claiming that they didn't have the resources to deal with it! The security in question tried to lurk out of the way of the cameras outside. There was then a long period during which it is suspected that the occupants belongings were searched for personally identifying documents, etc. The security staff closed all of the curtains to ensure that no one could see what they were up to. When people did eventually get their belongings back, pockets were open and bags had been rifled through.
The university authorities had decided that people were only to be allowed to go back to pick up their belongings one or two at a time and only after they had produced ID. Their details were being recorded by university security. One person who had been allowed in described how he was generally intimidated by the security and the senior police officer present who had previously been seen having a cordial chat with ex-policeman and Head of University Security, Gary Stevens, through the glass doors. Those who could not produce ID were told that they were not allowed to claim their belongings. What will happen to those people's belongings is unclear although a number of cleaning staff were seen entering the lecture theatre with black bin liners. In spite of the freezing weather (snow had started falling) and a possible solution being proposed, that the belongings be brought outside and the police witness who was taking what, people were made to wait for the unnecessarily lengthy and vindictive process that security had deemed necessary. The police were deferent to university security at all times, never challenging this process.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) this repression the sizeable crowd who had gathered in support of the occupation were defiant and angry. Good spirits were maintained by supporters bringing food and blankets for those who were left without coats in the heavy snow. The police claimed that they did not have the resources to deal with allegations of assault against university security.
University authiorities had a confrontational attitude towards the occupation from its inception. They refused to negotiate, cancelled lectures in the room, prevented LibDem Peer Baroness Tonge from entering the building to show her support and even attempted to turn off power to the room, but it was quickly restored. When the BBC turned up in order to report on the occupation they were prevented from entering the campus by university authorities.
Concerned readers are encourage to email their anger at the protesters treatment to Vice Chancellor: firstname.lastname@example.org, Director of Student Operations: email@example.com or Pro Vice Chancellor of the student experience: firstname.lastname@example.org