Students from UCL have occupied a room in the Wilkins Bulding in protest against UCL’s imminent buy-out and eviction of the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, Newham. The UCL management, working with Newham Council (led by Sir Robin Wales, Labour), are continuing to ignore the views of the vast majority of the 700 people who live on the estate and have said will continue with their policy, despite the fact that it’ll lead to the forced eviction of residents.
After a successful demonstration on 28 November outside a UCL Council meeting, a group of demonstrators took over the Wilkins Garden Room and decided in the end to occupy. A number of events have been planned for 29 November, including a talk from a resident of the Carpenters Estate. The occupation has irked UCL management immensely and is hoping to continue for as long as possible, UCLU and both the President and Vice-President of ULU have voiced support for the campaign.
An occupier adds "We’ve chosen this means of protest to draw attention to the issue of space. UCL is depriving people of the space in which they live and so we’ve decided to take space away from UCL to raise awareness on campus amongst staff and students, who haven’t even been consulted people on these plans."
Labour leftwinger John McDonnell MP has pledged his support.
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The student occupation at UCL has come to an end but the campaign to prevent UCL management and Newham Council from forcibly expelling all the residents of the Carpenters Estate goes on. The occupiers, who for over 48 hours whipped up a heap of trouble for the UCL bureaucracy in taking over a social space and setting up an exhibition showing students what the plans for a new campus really meant for the people of Stratford. Highlights during the occupation included the support from Labour MP John McDonnell (who promised to raise the issue in Parliament through an EDM), the renowned anthropologist David Graeber coming in for a discussion, and many residents of the Carpenters Estate coming to chat with students about their fight. One resident expressed that she was ‘truly touched’ by the knowledge that students at UCL cared so much about their campaign.
The occupation showed that even a short display of determined student organisation can shake and intimidate UCL management, who at the first sign of trouble brought out legal threats and security guards, in an effort to frighten the occupiers. Despite this, the event managed to raise huge awareness of the issue to previously unaware students and staff, most of whom voiced strong condemnation of the plans.
Due to the massive success of the occupation, many more events are planned by the UCL Save Carpenters Estate group and information can be found online for upcoming events