Protest in Leeds and on University Campus
There were incredible scenes at the University of Leeds today, starting with quite a straightforward protest march into town. Despite the snow, a few hundred students and local school pupils congregated on the Parkinson steps after a second walk-out at 11am. The student occupiers of the Michael Sadler building brought a sound system that played reggae music to the street, and leaflets were handed to passers-by.
The Student occupier’s press officer gave this statement: http://www.twitvid.com/OV6BP
At round 11.30, the protestors began to march down Woodhouse Lane, but were immediately halted by the police, who formed a line across the road. Five minutes later, the march was permitted to move down the road, and the police opened a route down into town. The march went past the met and veered right to come down beside the German Christmas market and emerge between the library and the Town Hall. The police set up vans to stop the march heading over Headrow, and encouraged the marchers onto Victoria Gardens, where they were then kettled for 20 minutes. A group of school students all the way from Otley began to arrive then from uphill. The march eventually broke out of the kettle and was followed by police up the other side of Millennium Square and back up Woodhouse Lane to the University, to arrive around 1pm.
See a video of today’s march here: http://www.twitvid.com/UAAF4
The students then returned to their occupied space in the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre, which had been locked down by a small group during the day. A rumour had circulated on the march that police had been called in by the University to evict the few remaining occupiers, but this proved to have been untrue. A series of speeches were then heard, each receiving applause. School students from Allerton Grange, Roundhay and Notre Dame, amongst others, were congratulated for their work for and on the march. Support from local trade unions, including UCU, then received applause. There was a call for a tour of the ‘tax-dodging’ companies in Leeds at a future protest, then music was put on and a party atmosphere reigned. The @OccupiedLeeds twitter feed declared “Leeds protest safe and sound in basecamp”.
Then, around 2pm there was something of a surge towards the Ziff building and a small number of protestors, including many local School pupils, took up occupation somewhere inside; it is believed to be on the mezzanine area near the VC’s office. The police moved swiftly in to contain the scene. There was much debate outside about the legitimacy of this manoeuvre, and who was behind it. A steward from the march and one of this last week’s occupier declared that this had not been agreed as action by the occupiers, and expressed concern for the School pupils. In contrast, @OccupiedLeeds declared “what exactly is @OccupiedLeeds other than those occupying”, suggesting the Ziff occupation had legitimacy in the eyes of some current occupiers. @LeedsStudent described on their twitter feed the Ziff occupation as being by a “small break-away group”. The Allerton Grange and Roundhay Students who had been applauded on Saturday were not involved, and were active in ringing their friends to get them to come down and out of the Ziff. There was then a retreat back to the Michael Sadler building, as fears grew that an eviction from that space was likely. @OccupiedLeeds tweeted that “the ziff occupation only had short-term aims” which is a credible account, and that “talk of breakways occupiers is silly. We’re a many pronged approach. Actions are spontaneous unplanned and organic”.
Reports then began to circulate of a broken window in the Ziff building. @LeedsStudent reported that it might have been by the police, and @OccupiedLeeds report ‘police violence’: “police at ziff building knocked the press’s blackberry out of their hands to prevent them recording, regardless of press pass”. A witness then stated that no students were in the vicinity at the time of the breaking of the window. @LeedsStudent reported that “It has now been confirmed by an eye witness that the window in the marjorie and ziff building was smashed by the head of security”, this was then corroborated by a separate tweet from @OccupiedLeeds. Later, Chief Superintendent Mark Milsom, of the City and Holbeck Police Division, stated “damage was caused to a glass door after a security guard tried to close it to prevent students entering.” Then @LeedsStudent tweeted: “Security have assured michael sadler occupiers that they won’t take any action but police have said they can’t promise anything”.
@OccupiedLeeds claimed then to have video footage of a woman being shoved to the ground by the police, and that this is to be uploaded tonight.