Yesterday, WFFE joined forces with staff during a UCU strike to struggle against Warwick’s continued High Court Injunction. Taken out in December 2014, the indefinite injunction has launched an unprecedented attack on civil liberties at Warwick by banning, across campus, all sit-ins and occupations. We leafleted and engaged prospective students before before joining staff at the bus interchange to hand out alternative maps of campus. Below is a statement on the injunction to Warwick’s management.
In Dec 2014, Warwick spent over 10,000 pounds taking out a High Court Injunction against its student body. This injunction bans sit-ins and occupations across the entirety of campus, indefinitely. Occupations, which have been used by social movements struggling for justice for decades, are now illegal at the University of Warwick. We wouldn’t even have the Students’ Union building if it weren’t for massive occupations in the early 1970s. We demand that Warwick immediately scrap the injunction.
Across the world, sit-ins and occupations have been used as a legitimate tool of social movements. From African Americans in the civil rights movement, to Brazilian land occupations, to an occupation of SOAS in 2009 in response to the impending deportation of foreign cleaning staff, movements have occupied – and won – for decades. Just last year, Fossil Free Edinburgh staged a successful snap-occupation after the University refused to divest from fossil fuels, whilst the ‘Fees Must Fall’ movement utilised occupations to stop a tuition fee hike in South Africa.
Warwick students and staff also have a long and proud tradition of using this tactic. Aside from winning us the Students’ Union building, threatened occupations were used as a bargaining chip in the successful struggle to get Warwick to divest from apartheid-linked shares and stop banking with Barclays. In 2009, a nine-day occupation of S0.21 raised awareness of Israel’s attack on Gaza.
The reason for this latest unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties at Warwick is the events of Dec. 3, 2014. During a non-violent free education sit-in in Senate House, police were called and attacked the protesters, spraying students with CS gas and threatening them with tasers. The outrage in the Warwick community led to one of the largest demonstrations in our history the next day, and a 200-strong occupation of the Rootes Social Building for the week after. In response to this – rather than apologise, which the University has never done – Warwick took its own students to court, threatening unlimited legal fees and even prison if the occupiers didn’t leave.
In term 1, a motion at the Students’ Union calling for the injunction to be scrapped passed with over 70% of the vote in favour. Our open letter calling for Stuart Croft to end the injunction now is signed by all the current SU officers, all future SU officers, 12 societies, the staff union, and 50 academics. The injunction is both indefinite, and campus-wide, making it possibly the most extreme injunction ever used in a British university. Such instruments have been condemned by Amnesty International and Liberty in the past for violating fundamental liberties. It would be simple for Warwick to remove it, and yet our corporate university’s intransigence is most clearly represented by this harsh injunction. If Warwick doesn’t drop the injunction, we will continue to disrupt open days and other events. Stop the ban on protest now!
More: Boar Comment article on why the injunction should be scrapped.