Activists occupy University of Manchester

| 20th June 2019
student occupation
people and planet
Student occupation demanding fossil fuel divestment had no access to toilets, running water or internet.

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Student protestors at the University of Manchester were denied access to toilets, water, and internet access whilst occupying a building on campus.

The occupation coincided with the annual conference of the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges.

The occupation was intended to put pressure on the University to remove its £11.3 million of investments in the fossil fuel industry as part of the People & Planet campaign.

Divestment

The group set up camp outside the office of the Vice Chancellor, Dame Nancy Rothwell, at 9:30 on the morning of Wednesday the 19 June.

At 12:15 campus security had declared that nobody from outside the occupation was allowed to join them or bring them additional supplies. At 14:56 they told the students that they would not be able to walk to the toilets which were on the same corridor without being blocked from returning to the protest. In the evening WiFi in the building was switched off. 

The protestors have maintained that they were consistently peaceful and not disrupting the working day of any of the staff in the building.

Their demands were to meet with the VC or members of the Senior Leadership Team, but these were denied whilst the leadership continued to instruct security to restrict their access to basic facilities. 

Manchester People & Planet members have been campaigning for fossil fuel divestment for 4 years. In February they entered a meeting of the Board of Governors to deliver an open letter calling for divestment. 

Mental wellbeing

The students have said: “The University have ignored us and tried to brush us under the carpet for years. Their awful response to this is just more evidence of how undemocratic senior leadership is at Manchester University”. 

Due to concerns for the physical and mental wellbeing a number of protestors had to leave after 13 hours of occupation, seven of which were without access to toilets.

Staff from the Students’ Union were campaigning for the students to have access to toilets, although they managed to deliver bottles of water their requests were denied. 

The University told the student newspaper, The Mancunion: “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.”

This Author

Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from People and Planet at the University of Manchester. 

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