Students at the University of Leeds are now into their sixth day of occupation – and support for them is growing.
Over 250 people attended a general assembly held in the occupied Rupert Beckett lecture theatre last Saturday.
These included delegations of school pupils, college students, teachers, lecturers and other trade unionists.
It was organised in order to coordinate more effectively the fight against the government’s proposed £9,000 tuition fees hike and cuts to EMA. It also discussed ways to strengthen the links between the different schools and colleges and workplaces across Leeds in the fightback against cuts.
The assembly was in two sessions. The first session was a mass meeting where students gave rousing examples of how they built for Day X. The second was for different workshops to thrash out plans for the next day of protests due to take place tomorrow (Tuesday).
School students were particularly inspiring. Alex, a year 10 student, told the Assembly, “We had one leaflet for Day X that we passed around the Friday before, only to find that it was quickly photocopied and circulated round the school. It meant that on Day X over 600 school students joined the walkout to walk two miles to the university and city centre protest.”
“A teacher in one class said that she supported us – but not to tell anyone. In the next class another teacher said the same – but not to tell anyone. We found out that every teacher supported us, because we are fighting for our future.”
A student from Notre Dame Sixth Form told the assembly how everyone wanted their EMA to stay and the heads of the school said it was the students’ choice to join the walkout. Every student received an internal email from the student senate asking them to join the walkout. Up to 400 sixth formers walked out.
Patrick, a teacher from the NUT union, told the assembly, “You have changed the attitude of the teachers into supporting you. 26 March is late, but we need to make it very big”.
John, a Unison union member, said, “There should be just as many coaches going to the national TUC Demo on March 26 as went on the national student demo, if not more.”
The second session was for different workshops for school, college and university students. They all came together to report back on their proposals on how to build for tomorrow’s protests.
They discussed different ways in which the campaign could be interlinked with between the different schools and colleges and coordinated together on common literature.
The workshops also proposed coordinating flashmobs in the town centre. Matt, a college student, demanded, “If we need to take direct action, we will take direct action. This is the beginning and it is going to carry on.”
The last word should be given to Liam, a school student who summed up a brilliant day at the occupation general assembly. He said, “In this occupation and assembly we are saying that we have to take action because we won’t stand for this crap anymore.”
The occupation has been vibrant and inspiring. Consistent numbers of up to 100 run everything from everyday logistics, food, sleeping bags and publicity.
It’s a shining beacon of the ability of students to organise and push the fight against the government forward.
11am – Assemble in front of Parkinson Building
Plan of action for Tuesday in Leeds:
11.15am – March to town from university
Midday – March gathers at the town hall
1pm – March arrives back at front of Parkinson Building