Sussex University: defend the six, support the strike!

Submitted by Matthew on 18 March, 2010 - 12:53 Author: A Sussex University Student Activist

On 12 March, Sussex University students occupied again, in support of six students victimised for a previous occupation.

On 3 March students had occupied management offices at Sussex University. As the occupation went on, senior management locked themselves in an office and declared themselves to have been taken hostage!

Meanwhile students offered them water and politely asked if they wanted to leave. But the Vice Chancellor called the cops, who arrived on campus with seven riot vans; this was the beginning of severe repression of the student and staff campaign against job cuts.

The police threatened students with dogs and pepper spray, and meted out indiscriminate beatings to the crowd of 200 protestors outside. The Vice Chancellor suspended six students, including one who had been present at the protest for just thirty minutes.

Within days, thousands of students and workers around the country had signed a petition against the suspensions, and on 11 March a demonstration of 500 preceded a 300-strong occupation of an Arts lecture theatre. The occupation is still going strong at the time of writing.

This second occupation took place in open defiance of a court injunction — and was supported publicly by staff, including by the lecturers’ union (UCU) branch. Trade unionists from Brighton, and speakers from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts have visited the occupation. Now management appear to be backing off, but the suspensions remain.

The Sussex UCU branch is due to strike on Thursday 17 March, bolstered by a “yes” vote on an very high turn-out — in no small part a product of the magnificent solidarity that students and others have extended to staff at Sussex.

The use of riot police, court injunctions and politically-motivated suspensions acannot be tolerated. It sets a dangerous precedent for other University managers around the country.

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