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Defend Education Occupation Evicted

The University of Birmingham's Aston Webb building
The University of Birmingham's Aston Webb building • Photograph: Samuel George

The Defend Education occupation of the Strathcona building has been evicted after two days.

Student activist group, Defend Education, have been evicted from the Strathcona building, which they have been occupying in protest since Monday. The group has been protesting against the suspensions of Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse, and the suspended sentence handed out to Hattie Craig.

Early on Wednesday morning, the University used a possession order to regain the building from the protesters. This possession order was originally granted to the University following a court case that allowed for the eviction of the activist group from the Senate Chamber in December, but it bans occupations on campus for all ‘persons unknown’. Defend Education refute claims that ‘persons unknown’ can refer to anyone who was not involved in the occupation of the Senate Chamber.

In a statement to Redbrick, the University said ‘The masked individuals have been free to leave the occupation but have chosen not to despite requests from the University.  As a result the University has today (30 July) used its possession order to regain possession of the building from the activists so that teaching and other university business can be resumed. The University did not take this decision lightly, but will not tolerate illegal behaviour or activities of this kind that significantly disrupt the education of others and divert resources from the rest of the University community’.

In a blog on their website, Defend Education claims that they were evicted by ‘two vans full of police, over twenty five bailiffs and the full force of security’. One of the protesters, John Holland, said ‘this was an entirely legitimate response to the disproportionate reactions of the university against the peaceful direct action. The police followed occupiers for over half an hour around Selly Oak after they left the occupation peacefully and intimidated them despite their compliance. The break-in to the occupation was frightening for the occupiers… The university clearly had no qualms about taking the harshest of measures against these activists.’

The occupation has been criticised by students on pre-sessional courses, who have not been able to attend classes. Zhou Zhang, an international student studying English in preparation for their studies in October, told Redbrick ‘they [Defend Education] do not speak for me and they wear masks that make some students from some places scared.’

Read more in Defend Education