This is a shorter write-up by members of Plan C Manchester about Wednesday 11th December’s #copsoffcampus activities. A longer account, written also by members of Plan C Manchester but specifically for the Beyond Europe platform, can be read here.
In Manchester, the response to recent events in and around the University of London was heartening. We gathered outside University Place – the huge branded grey cylinder on Oxford Road. There were around 100 of us, from Defend Education, Anticapitalist Students, the Anticapitalist Initiative, and Plan C, as well as lots of unaligned people too. A few people from the anti-fracking camp in Salford were there as well, who had their own ample reasons to attend a demo against police brutality. Someone had brought a box of chalk, and by the time the demonstration moved off the ground where we had been standing was covered in writing – solidarity with #3cosas, solidarity with arrested students], free education, sick pay, holiday pay, pensions, against the criminalisation of protest and the brutalisation of protestors, against austerity, against fees and cuts. There was a Plan C banner with ACAB written in purple, and another demanding justice for all. We marched around the library and then took the road, occupying the whole of the left-hand lane up to All Saints Park, chanting about kettles, debt, cops, austerity and education. At All Saints Park we arranged ourselves over the steps and there were a few short cheerful speeches from six or seven groups, with the mic being passed around and lots of cheering and clapping. We were pleased with the turnout, in high spirits and planning more action in the new year.
We returned to University Place – taking the road again as we did so – at which point, the Manchester Defend Education network felt sufficiently buoyed by the ambience that it decided to re-implement previously shelved plans for a flash sit-in of the University of Manchester’s social responsibility office on the other side of Oxford Road, whose watchword is ‘making a difference’. Twenty people, mainly students of the University, entered and remained overnight in the building, dropping a banner (“Act responsibly: put students and staff before profit”) and attracting significant support for ‘Occupy Manchester University‘. Others, primarily non-students and organised groups, either converged in the Friends Meeting House for an inter-group discussion on the state of struggle around ‘capitalism and education’, or helped materially support the sit-in by, winching up food and blankets using string and a pulley system at the back of the building, under security guards’ noses.
The joint victories of #3Cosas, the Goldsmith Solidarity Network, and student-worker mobilisations at the University of London generally, have sent tremors across the country. One of the exciting things about this new wave is its increasing political astuteness, organising beyond just student interests; or rather, recognising that student interests are the same as the interests of university workers. Students in Manchester who proposed ‘demands’, from within the sit-in they vacated almost immediately, did not (unfortunately) articulate an anti-police politics of a piece with the demo that had participated in; but they did, on the other hand, include a firm sense of the inter-connectedness of staff and student struggle. There is also no question about the legitimacy of disruptive protest and building occupations.
So, the energy and cheer of the Manchester demo and occupation were cause for excitement about the possibilities for organising in higher education next year. Students all over the country are mobilising, and being joined in doing so by support staff and academic staff. There is a general sense that we need to intensify, build and grow our activities, and invent new tactics as well. Happy new year.
Plan C Manchester