A member of Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) unveiled a banner condemning Warwick’s High Court injunction – which indefinitely bans sit-ins and occupations at the University – during his graduation ceremony, as an open letter from staff and students echoing his call is released.
As he went up to collect his degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, 22-year-old Connor Woodman took out a banner with ‘Students Against Injunctions’ painted on the front. He was protesting the year and a half-old High Court Injunction the University took out in December, 2014 during an occupation on campus following a violent incident with police. The injunction indefinitely bans all political sit-ins and occupations on Warwick’s campus.
On the same day, an open letter to Warwick’s Vice Chancellor, Stuart Croft, was released, calling on him to scrap the injunction. The letter, signed by nearly 50 academic staff members, 12 student societies, the local Universities and College Union branch, and the entire current and future Student’s Union Sabbatical team, calls the injunction “an unprecedented crackdown on civil liberties”.
The student, a member of campaign group Warwick For Free Education, said: “The High Court injunction is a gross violation of basic liberties. There are several things that wouldn’t have happened in Warwick’s history if it weren’t for occupations and sit-ins, including winning the Students’ Union building and divesting from Apartheid-linked shares. Direct action is a vital part of our democratic life and, outrageously, such tactics are now illegal at the University of Warwick”.
Hope Worsdale, incoming Education Officer at the Students’ Union, said, “students are absolutely right to protest this disgraceful legal instrument. When police attacked students during a sit-in on Dec. 3, 2014, the University reacted not be apologising and upholding their duty of care, but by criminalising protest tactics and the very students who were assaulted by West Midlands police”.
Contact: Connor Woodman, 07954402113, firstname.lastname@example.org
The injunction covers the entirety of Warwick campus, and is indefinite. Campaigners describe it as one of the most wide-ranging injunctions ever used at a British university. In the past, Amnesty International and Liberty have condemned the use of such instruments by universities in the UK. It was taken out after West Midlands police were called to a campus during a free education sit-in, spraying several students with CS gas and threatening the crowd with Tasers, arresting three. The videos from the event sparked national interest, and a 1000-strong demo at Warwick the day after. Following the rally, hundreds of students occupied a building on campus demanding an investigation and apology. In response, Warwick took spent over £10,000 in court getting an injunction order requiring the protesters to leave. Instead of waiting for another confrontation with bailiffs and police, the students chose to leave.
The injunction has been the subject of protests since then. On February 5, over a dozen of students shut down the University’s Finance Office, protesting the way Warwick interacted with Prevent, as well as the injunction. On February 26th, nearly 100 students marched around campus and blocked a main University road – one of their demands was to scrap the injunction.
A motion was passed through the Students’ Union at the beginning of the academic year calling for the injunction to be scrapped. Voting was open to all students, and 70% of those who participated voted in favour of the motion, making it official SU policy.
Warwick For Free Education: A Warwick student group affiliated to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, which campaigns against tuition fees, the Government’s higher education reforms, the influence of the ‘counter-terrorism’ Prevent policy on campus, and a range of other issues.