First of all I’d like to say how insanely proud I am that the occupation is about to enter its second week. Everyone here has worked so hard for the cause and the commitment on show from each and every regular occupier exemplifies the nature of the protests and occupations nationwide.
More importantly, today was the second national day of action. From Brighton to Strathclyde, people marched against the fees and against the cuts. Absolutely everywhere, students from university and colleges, lecturers, staff and other activists showed an incredibly resilience to come out in the snow with the prospect of kettling and violence looming large over the heads.
We started our protest last night by calling a general organisational meeting here at the Roscoe Building. Loads of people turned up and we ended up drafting a clear plan for the day’s events. The day itself began for the occupiers at half seven, with banners being finished off, press interviews, flyering, faux-picket lines and various other acts of mobilisation. At about ten am, fifty or so students from a local college showed up, which brought smiles to the faces of every single occupier – people were already beginning to turn out in force. By noon, lectures had begun as usual in the lecture theatre and the occupiers and college students left for the protest. Alarmingly, there were about a hundred police officers outside the building, who followed the march to University Place, where thousands of angry protesters rallied before marching into the city to the town hall.
We are proud to say that the protest was entirely peaceful and hopefully very effective. To see an album full of photographs, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3895xtt. At its height, the protest consisted of about 2,500 people across Manchester. There was a small kettle held (presumably the police felt that it was unfair on them if they didn’t do one) but protesters “moved on” after about five minutes. Between 600 and 1,000 then marched back down Oxford Road towards the universities with an aim to holding a general meeting in the occupied Roscoe Building but a police line greeted them stretched across University Place. Despite this, in the region of 500 people managed to gain access to the Roscoe Building, although there were a couple of ugly scenes when police attempted to deny them access. Access, that is, to a building that the Roscoe Occupation is permitted to use, on the condition that no lectures are disrupted.
These people piled into Lecture Theatre B, with a handful of occupiers standing at the front. We sat chanting and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. It brought a tear to my eye watching hundreds of people in complete unity with each other, standing strong for what they believe in. And to think we are often referred to as the apathetic generation.
A dozen or so speakers stood to offer messages of solidarity to the room, including a speaker from Xaverian College, a Year 9 pupil from a local high school and a representative of UCU. Soon we began the largest general meeting of the Roscoe Occupation so far.
It was agreed that:
- We will not disrupt lectures.
- An effort will be made to contact schools.
- Thursday will be “Bring a Lecturer” day.
- Intellectuals and other guest speakers will be encouraged to speak at meetings and events.
- We will acquire an open doors policy through our own means.
- We will agree on a list of tasks that each occupier can sign up to.
The first of these that was immediately acted upon was the open doors policy. An idea iterated yesterday was put forward again – that we man the front doors all evening with shifts of people willing to sit in the doorway to prevent management from locking the building up. The move started at 17:45 with twenty four people staging the sit in, singing songs and linking arms under blankets. The security staff made no attempt to move us, but felt they had to contact management. An hour later we received a statement from the university telling us we were causing disruption. Well… yes. Have a cookie, etc. The decision was made to continue the sit in. Having the doors open allowed more people to join the occupation (which was now at about 150 people), food to be brought in, journalists to visit (representatives from the MEN and the Mancunion paper milled about all evening) and a better idea of how the space can be used in coming weeks to be formed.
Over the evening various groups have worked on specific projects and drawn up important decisions regarding the future of the occupation. Flyers have been designed to be distributed to the local colleges and to explain the nature of the occupation.
We feel that the nature of the occupation isn’t being conveyed quite as well as we’d like to university students. Two personal tales from my time here today show this reasonably well: after coming out of the bog I saw a girl sitting on the floor looking ill so I asked her if she was okay. We had a chat and I told her I was from the occupation but she snapped at me – asking why we’re disrupting lectures. I explained to her that we aren’t, and that all but one lecture has been cancelled by management, which she seemed to accept. If you get the chance, please make sure people are aware that all lectures are continuing as normal. The second situation involved some time I spent standing on the stall outside the Student Union yesterday. A group of four girls passed me and sneered at the stall, but I persuaded them to have a chat anyway, and they went away in full support of the occupation, now aware that we aren’t just using this space to party and have a good time. (Although we are having a good time in the late evenings, so don’t let the serious nature of our occupation put you off if you were considering coming down to lend a hand.)
We’ve also put up sign up sheets at the back of the lecture theatre to make helping out easier. You can sign up to flyer, run stalls, clean, put out shout outs in lectures and much more.
Finally, I’d like to thank the people who donated money today, the person who brought a microwave (you godsend!) and the people who donated massive amount of food. Thank you to you all – you’re really keeping us going here.
Never has the mood here been so overwhelmingly positive. Not only are there well over a hundred people still here, but I don’t recognise nine tenths of them – the regulars have finally got an opportunity to have a night off. As things stand, I’m the only person to have spent all seven nights in occupation so I’m very much looking forward to a night in my own bed tomorrow.
Solidarity. Thanks for your support. It means the world to us.