At around 4:30pm on Thursday 3rd March, bailiffs entered a property in Bedford Square owned by Royal Holloway, University of London in order to violently evict protesters. This is the first use of bailiffs against students by their own university in Britain in decades. Students and activists had taken over the property to create an “Anti-Cuts Space.”
The Anti-Cuts Space was created as a resource and meeting-place for activists and anyone involved in new social movements to fight the Government’s austerity measures. It was opened on Friday 25th February in a large Georgian house. The space aimed to revivify the student movement by making connections with wider anti-cuts struggles across London.
Throughout the occupation there was little negotiation offered by the university, and where communication existed the university Registrar, Mr. Simon Higman, backed up offers of discussion with threats of violent removal. Nonetheless, many members of staff, including many members of university unions UCU and Unison across the University of London, had expressed support for the occupation.
The occupiers received a notice to quit on Tuesday, followed by the delivery of court papers on Thursday only an hour before the case was to be heard, leaving no time for a legal defence of the protest to be prepared. By Wednesday afternoon a possession order had been issued by the high court.
During the eviction, bailiffs damaged the external and internal doors of the Grade 1 listed property. Upon eviction, the activists took to the streets, blocking Gower Street protesting that the bailiffs had prevented access to their property that had been left in the building. The police were forced to intervene, demanding that the bailiffs allow students access in order to retrieve these items. The use of such force by a university against its own students marks a sad day for Higher Education in Britain. That an institution would inflict such violence upon its own members demonstrates the total alienation of students and managers within the sector.
We believe that such violence is never necessary, and hope that during imminent future occupations universities will feel no need to resort to such means. We hope that victimisation and abuse of protesters yesterday will serve as a stark reminder that education is about people, not buildings, about learning, not institutions.