Build for battle in January

Submitted by Matthew on 16 December, 2010 - 12:22

We were discussing taking some kind of radical direct action for a long time before we went into occupation.

We had a democratic meeting on a Saturday, which involved a lot of different groups and forces. We discussed what kind of action we wanted to take and decided to go for an occupation. We thought about some demands we’d like to raise and used the Sunday to make flyers, make banners and build support amongst activists for the idea. On Monday we want into occupation.

We chose this space because it’s visible. It’s near the student union, so a lot of students walk past it. Staff come into this building for their lunch so we can engage with campus workers as well. We also wanted to cause some disruption to the university; this building is often used by the university to host corporate events, so it’s good from that point of view as well.

Some of our initial demands were around control of our occupied space, and some were about demanding that the VC and university management more generally come out against cuts and commit not to pass on any increase in fees.

We’ve been having general meetings at 5:30pm every day where we plan and decide our activity. We recently sent a delegation to support the Connaught workers, and we’ve been making links with Unison and the FBU. Firefighters in Hull are facing cuts to staffing levels and they organised a recent demonstration which we attended. Some of them are being disciplined for wearing their work jackets on that demonstration so we’re supporting them in that fight too.

Our term is coming to an end soon so we may choose to end the occupation on our own terms. But really this is just about laying the foundations and building support for a bigger fight next year, both in terms of the student movement and wider anti-cuts campaigns. There hasn’t been a student occupation at Hull for over 20 years; this is just the beginning.

• Students have been occupying rooms on the first floor of Staff House. They have succeeded in forcing an emergency general meeting of their Students Union after its Council refused to back them. Their website is: occupiedhull.wordpress.com.

Patrick Smith (Hull AWL and student occupier)

They shoot children?

We are told we live in a democracy. We are told that we have freedom of speech and freedom of expression. If that is the case, then there is a lot to be said about a recent event in David Cameron’s constituency.

Twelve year old student Nicky Wishart is a peaceful protester who like many young people is unhappy with the current attacks on the working class. He happens to live in Cameron’s constituency, and decided to organise a demonstration against the closing of his youth centre in Witney outside Cameron’s constituency office.

The protest gained support over Facebook, and had around 130 people planning to attend. However a certain part of the state’s machinery didn’t like it.

Wishart was told by the police that if the protest went ahead and there was trouble he would be arrested, and that armed police would be there if things “got out of hand”.

Yes, you read that correctly, A twelve year old boy was threatened by armed police for planning a peaceful protest with other children. The police did this without informing Wishart’s mother and presumed they could get away with it.

I had a similar yet less dramatic experience with the police in Warwickshire, who called me after seeing my name and number on a Facebook page advertising a walkout on 24 November and told me that if a demonstration outside our MP’s office took place then I would be arrested and would be given a criminal record.

The walkout took place and nothing happened.

These are two examples of the police using fear-mongering tactics. It’s atrocious, disgusting, and ridiculously undemocratic. The police only exist because there are so many reasons for unrest in Britain and the world today, and they are a scarily powerful part of the machinery of the state.

The website www.inspectorgadget. wordpress.com is a police forum, and some of the things on that website just show us how terrifying some police officers are. One police officer going under the name of Taff Taff posted about the student protests on 9 December: “…could all be solved by a few marksman on roof tops and a few well placed head shots”. He continued: “get chainsaws and cut the legs off then. That will slow them down a bit”.

He may be joking, but it shows us just how deluded and scary the police are.

We can not let them scare us into doing nothing. We will speak out against the police force as well as the state they defend.

Harry Sinclair Waugh

Arts against the cuts

“The communist revolution is not afraid of art. It realises that the role of the artist in a decadent capitalist society is determined by the conflict between the individual and various social forms which are hostile to him. This fact alone, insofar as he is conscious of it, makes the artist the natural ally of revolution.” (André Breton and Leon Trotsky, Towards a Free Revolutionary Art 1938)

Among the more innovative direct actions taken during the recent, student-led anti-cuts upsurge have been sit-ins and occupations at significant cultural institutions such as the National Gallery and Tate Britain.

They were there to draw attention to the cuts in arts and culture budgets, the fact that arts and humanities courses at universities will be amongst the worst hit by higher education budget cuts.

For the Tories and their Lib Dem partners, it is not simply basic public services like healthcare and education that one must be abundantly wealthy in order to enjoy at a high quality; art and culture are also off-limits for the worse-off.

Students at the University of the Arts London have been in the forefront of the anti-cuts movement, helping anticipate and catalyse it with one of the first anti-cuts occupations at the London College of Communication way back in late 2009. We print below (abridged) a statement from student activists at the Camberwell College of Art (one of UAL’s constituent colleges) which they released when they went into occupation on 6 December 2010. Their website is http://artsagainstcuts.wordpress.com.

Ruben Lomas

Arts benefit us all: the statement of the CCA occupiers

We, the students of Camberwell College of Arts, believe that if the massive cuts proposed for education happen, it is unlikely that academies such as ours will continue to exist. Arts and humanities courses are being targeted with the largest cuts, while still requiring a great deal of funding, which even a rise in fees will not cover. In response, we have decided to occupy the Wilson’s Road building at our college.

We see the arts as occupying a vital place within society, one which benefits us all, both culturally and economically. If arts education ceases to be a viable route for students, that benefit will be lost.

An artless society is a heartless society!

We oppose the transformation of education into a market. Education should be a forum for all, not just those who can afford it, to learn, experiment and debate.

Therefore, we call for all arts students, especially those from UAL, to join this occupation, and call for more arts-led occupation and actions. We propose to use our space for a practice-led resistance. We will run workshops, performances, debates and experiments, creating a collective space of generative discourse. At no point will we disrupt any fellow student’s education, allowing all scheduled lectures to continue. We wish to propose, rather than simply oppose!"

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