***UPDATE: the LSE occupation has now ended. Follow them here on Facebook for updates, and read their preliminary statement here.
NCAFC stands in solidarity with the occupiers at LSE, who have been threatened with eviction and legal action by their own university. As we have seen at so many other institutions, most recently at UAL, this is a popular bullying tactic used by managements to scare their own students into silence and to repress protest on campus. This decision clearly shows that the university is scared of how successful the occupation has been and how much the free education movement is growing. We condemn LSE management for making this outrageous move and we offer our full and unwavering support to Occupy LSE. We also call on LSE Student Union to offer support to their students at this difficult time!
This afternoon Occupy LSE received a letter threatening eviction (which may be read here http://bit.ly/1EqYT0h) from the management of the university who have said that if we do not leave by midnight tonight, they will pursue legal action. The LSE management have put security guards outside all the university buildings that connect to the occupation and there is currently a large and threatening presence outside the Vera Anstey Suite.
Occupy LSE condemns in the most stringent terms the recent actions of the LSE management in their attempt to forcibly end the occupation through legal action. LSE management are using baseless excuses to avoid dealing with the huge institutional problems we have raised.
This is an explicit attempt to use coercive mechanisms to shut down a legitimate expression of political dissent.
Occupy LSE has been in direct contact with the Director, Craig Calhoun, with whom we have conducted many hours of positive dialogue. We have negotiated in good faith and wish to continue dialogue with management, including a scheduled meeting with Craig Calhoun tomorrow. The only people attempting to end discussion is management, not the students.
LSE management have justified their decision for the following reasons:
1) Disruption of the working of the school, in particular the studies of other students by the last-minute, unauthorised disruption to the scheduled venue of EC221 yesterday evening
2) An increased risk to the health and safety of LSE staff and students, such as by the blocking of fire exists in the Vera Anstey Room
3) An increased risk to the security of LSE property, such as by facilitating the unauthorised presence in campus of large numbers of external people over whom we have no authority or duty of care, and by the granting of access to some non-lse people by the abuse of LSE ID cards
4) Abusive behaviour towards LSE Security Staff, and disorderly conduct late at night
These accusations are false.
1) Occupy LSE fiercely disputes the charge that we have disrupted lectures and “the student experience”. Due to an unexpected turnout of over 400 students that attended yesterday’s ‘Festival of Radical Ideas’, which was advertised, among others, by the LSE SU, the event was moved to the Old Theatre. The decision was made collectively by the 300+ people packed into the Vera Antsey Suite due to concerns over health and safety. While there was a class scheduled in the Old Theatre that overlapped with the screening, we proactively sought out a solution – by contacting the lecturer, Timetables and the students – so as to not disrupt the lecture. We would like to stress that we take education very seriously and know how stressful this time of year can be for students, as it is for us.
2) With respect to the blocking of the back fire door, it was moved as requested by the start of term but blocked again during last night’s festival, due to concerns of holding the space. It has now been unblocked and remains a completely unjustified reason for threatening legal action.
3) LSE is a public institution and is therefore accessible to the public. We would like to question why the 400+ attendees to our educational day yesterday have been deemed an ‘unauthorised presence’ when the university regularly hosts public lectures. We stand for an education that is free, liberated and accessible to all.
4) Over the last 6 weeks we have had a good relationship with security and staff, many of whom have expressed solidarity with the demands of the occupation and the call for free education. Occupy LSE completely condemns abusive behaviour of all staff, and anyone who abuses security would be in breach of our safe space policy and would have to leave the group. By “disorderly conduct late at night”, the management are referring to students studying in the dining room of the Old Building in order to meet essay deadlines. We struggle to see how this has been interpreted as “disorderly” and does not warrant call for an eviction of Occupy LSE.
The legal threat from management is in direct response to us organizing a day of events founded on the principles of free education. For the last 6 weeks the Vera Anstey Room has been used as an educational space, where hundreds of people have participated in discussions, events, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics. The events have all been open to the public, students or not, in reflection of the belief that universities, and educational spaces, are to be free, open and accessible to all.
We have set out demands, many of which have passed through the SU as motions (for example: free education, divestment, ethics code, sexual harassment).
When LSE management tries to criminalize dissent and our occupation, they are attacking not just its students, but the right to political expression. From ‘kettling’ students in the protests against tuition fees in 2010, students from UAL being taken to court, to the use of police and force against occupations at Senate House, Sussex, Warwick, and Birmingham universities, students’ political voices are being suppressed. LSE management seems to be eager to add itself to this list of educational institutions that are willing to use force against their own students.
With universities always more unable to justify the destructive policies they are implementing, violence seems to be the only engagement they are capable of. We’ve been taught in these very institutions that violence is the resort one falls to when incapable of interacting with the content expressed. We will not give in to these threats.
Please stand with us against this attempt to criminalize protest and to undermine a legitimate movement at our university.