Socialist Worker

Gaza occupation grows at Manchester University

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2137

Meeting to decide what to do in the Manchester occupation

Meeting to decide what to do in the Manchester occupation

The waves of student occupations in solidarity with Gaza show no sign of stopping as Manchester university and Strathclyde university went into occupation this week.

Sundara, a student at Manchester university, told Socialist Worker, 'This is the most exciting thing I've ever been involved in. I've never done anything like this before.

“We're having to make decisions very quickly and democratically. This mood has a lot of potential'

On Wednesday of this week around 500 students at Manchester university turned up to an emergency student general meeting to debate and vote on a motion resolving to support the people of Palestine and to pressure the university to divest its shares in arms companies.

The meeting needed 500 to meet quorum – the number of people needed for motions that are passed within that meeting to become student union policy.

A small number of right wing students tried to get people to leave in order to make any votes useless.

While they succeeded in doing this and officials locked the doors, crowds of people were gathering outside, demanding to be let into the room.

They were refused entry for a while, then when they were finally allowed in, the chair told the meeting that it was too late to have a democratic meeting—despite the numbers reaching the required level once again.

Most students were furious at this move. It was clear that usual channels of student union debate were not going to be effective, so a large group marched out of the hall and towards the administration building.

Over 200 students went on to occupy the corridor outside the vice-chancellor’s office, refusing to move and discussing demands to put to the university.

The vice-chancellor came out to talk to the students. He offered no concessions and went back to his office in a sulk.

The occupying students held a meeting that evening, with UCU lecturers’ union members, Mark Kranz from Manchester Stop the War Coalition and others.

One of the students, Dave, told Socialist Worker, “This occupation feels like a turning point in our movement.

“These are the biggest demonstrations this campus has seen over the past five years. So many new people are involved and really want to make a stand.'

Today, Friday, a second occupation started in the postal room within the same building.

Management have tried to scare students by saying that third years involved will be expelled. Police vans have appeared on campus as well as uniformed police and community support officers.

The students in occupation were laid under siege. Security locked down the building and refused to let supporters take food in to the students.

But as a demonstration gathered at 2pm on campus, bags of food were hoisted on sticks to students inside.

The demonstration of up to 100 students went on to occupy a lecture theatre in the engineering building. The room faces the main road, and the students have hung banners and Palestinian flags in the windows.

The students involved in the occupation of the administration building came out to join the others in blocking the road outside the engineering building, demanding access to that occupation.

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