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Courtesy UoM Rent Strike

Bailiffs evict Manchester rent strikers occupying university buildings

The Simon building has been occupied since 13th February by student activists demanding a 30 per cent rent reduction

The University of Manchester has forcefully evicted student protesters on rent strike from the occupied Simon Building using private bailiffs.

At approximately 5:20am today (22nd March), around 15 bailiffs entered the campus building and began forcefully removing student occupiers.

A possession order was granted in court on 20th March and a notice given to occupiers on the 21st. On the morning of the 22nd, bailiffs forced entry through the door, and asked the current occupiers to rapidly clear their belongings. Videos show the bailiffs roughly dragging and carrying the protestors out of the building.

The Simon building has been occupied since February 13, marking a total of 43 days of continuous occupation, beginning with the taking of the John Owens Building on 8th February. Students have occupied the building as part of their ongoing rent strike, and are calling for university bosses to meet their demands.

The occupiers’ demands are a 30 per cent rent reduction, a rent freeze, and a guarantee that 40 per cent of student halls will be affordable (cost less than 50 per cent of the maximum student maintenance loan) within the next three years, a cost of living payment of £1,500 to match the real terms reduction in the student maintenance loan by the government, that the university issues a guarantee of no punishment for occupiers and rent strikers, and that they publicly support a favourable settlement with the UCU Dispute.

Speaking to Dazed, one occupier, 23-year-old Lucy, described the raid this morning as “stressful”.  “We were woken up at 5:20am by about 20 very large men, who were filming us wake up and get dressed. They allowed us some time to gather our things, although were reluctant to let us do more than one journey to take our stuff out, or use the lifts to do it,” she recalls, explaining that once their belongings were removed they began to get more aggressive. “When they dragged me out, I went completely limp. There wasnt enough room in the lift for all the activists that were in there, so they dropped me on top of another student, standing on her hair.

When they tried to get me out of the lift, they started jogging down a corridor, pulling me by just my arms. I could feel my wrist being twisted and it is now sprained mildly, but they only stopped dragging me by my arms when other students protested,” she adds. Eventually they got us all out, not taking a large amount of care not to hurt us. We are all fine now, apart from some minor scrapes, sprains, and bruises.

21-year-old Anya, another occupier, stresses that this isn’t the end of the rent strike. ”Action will continue until the university meets our demands. We’re hoping to more than double the number of rent strikers at the next payment. Further direct action may need to be taken if the uni does not negotiate.”

The occupiers said in a further statement: “The University has made it clear that they would rather drag their students out of a building than listen to our concerns. The cost of living crisis isn’t going anywhere and neither are we. Occupations are only one of many tactics, and this eviction will not slow down our campaign one bit.”

This latest escalation follows a crackdown on student activists by the University of Manchester. At the end of last month, 11 occupiers allegedly involved in the John Owens occupation were placed under disciplinary investigation and could face expulsion if found guilty.

No other known student occupation or protest has been subject to threats of expulsion or use of bailiffs in the University of Manchester’s recent history. Over the weeks of this occupation, security guards have blocked off kitchens, hot water, food supplies and fire exits. Occupiers also revealed after an investigation that senior members of security staff had been engaged in a three-year-long campaign of online targeted harassment against activists. The university has now confirmed that those staff are under investigation.

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “This morning officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order, on a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since 13 February 2023.   

“This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on 15 March 2023.  The Court granted the University a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers. 

“We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.”