On 9 May university management at London Metropolitan used police and private security to evict a peaceful occupation of the Holloway Road Graduate centre.
Students at London Met’s North Campus staged the occupation in protest against planned cuts of 400 courses and several student support schemes. London Met provides courses and support to working-class students who otherwise would find it difficult to access higher education.
These cuts will transform the college into, in VC Malcolm Gillies’s words, a “lean”, “tightly-organised”, “competitive” institution. Gillies plans to outsource services and market London Met as a cut-price, business-oriented institution.
Eshe, a first-year performing arts student, said:
“Not only did management have tens of security guards and five police officers, but they acted really aggressively. They told us we had ten minutes to leave the occupation. It was like bloodhounds with a fox. They didn’t give anyone time to read the injunction. It was really bad, bullying tactics. They scared the occupiers out with sheer force, ‘pick up your stuff and go go go’ kind of thing.”
The use of police in a midnight eviction is a serious escalation in management bullying tactics. Most university evictions in recent years have been resolved without the involvement of the police. Other Vice Chancellors might now be tempted to use such tactics. The student movement must denounce this attack.
Eshe added, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings. People are thinking about trying to occupy something else or bring more pressure to bear. We’ve got a tip-off about the location of the VC today, so we’re going to rally round and sing him a song.”
Max Watson, secretary of London Met Unison branch, told Solidarity,
“A midnight raid is a scandal and should be exposed as such. The students are defending their education and they have shown the way forward: we have to take decisive action now to stop the cuts. The education support staff and students are united: we will not stand for this. We are London Met not ‘EasyMet’. We will not become a no-frills university. We pledge to resist with every weapon we have.
“We’re already in dispute over job cuts and failure to avoid compulsory redundancies. We’re working on a timeline for a strike. It’ll be as soon as possible.”
• The students will lobby the Board of Governors on 11 May calling for the resignation of Malcolm Gillies.
The knock on the door
At around 9am on 10 May two plainclothes police officers turned up at University College of London (UCL) Astor halls of residence in Bloomsbury and arrested two known UCL student activists.
As far as UCL anti-cuts activists know at the time of going to press, they have not been charged and as of 3pm (10 May) they are still in custody.
UCL student union office Michael Chessum said: “This shows a clear escalation in the police’s tactics, and it is being used in order to intimidate known student activists. It is clearly political policing.”
The Bloomsbury Fightback group will shortly announce a protest against the police action. Details: www.anticuts.com