Protesting Manchester students tear down the fences put up around halls

Hundreds of students marched through campus

Protesting students at Owen’s Park Halls have torn down the newly-erected fences.

Yesterday afternoon, fencing was put up around a number of UoM halls, including Unsworth, Owen’s Park and Oak House, with students saying they’d been given no warning. The university subsequently said the fencing was a result of “new security measures” introduced by them, due to the new national lockdown.

Whilst students speaking to The Manchester Tab said felt they had been “barricaded in” and “imprisoned”, the university clarified that the fences were “designed to help highlight main entrance areas”. They stressed students living in the halls blocks could still come and go as they please, but the fencing was to control mixing of households, in line with the new national lockdown rules.

Students planned a protest against the new fencing later that evening, and during the protest it emerged some of the fencing around halls has been torn down. Students at the protest told The Manchester Tab “hundreds” were in attendance.

Before the protest, the university had said they would be taking the fences down today, after receiving complaints from students and student action group S.A.F.E.R. An email to students from the university read: “The fencing that started going up today was a further measure to support safety on site, and just as now, residents would continue to enter and leave as they please.

“It was certainly not the plan to lock them in their accommodation.

“However, despite this positive intention, the feedback about this change has been very negative and as a result we will shortly be writing to all students to confirm that the fencing will be removed tomorrow.”

After the fencing was torn down, the university’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said: “I sincerely apologise for the concern and distress caused by the erecting of a fence around our Fallowfield Halls of Residence today. This was not our intention – in fact quite the reverse.

“The fencing was intended as a response to a number of concerns received over recent weeks from staff and students on this site about safety and security; particularly about access by people who are not residents. There was never any intent to prevent students from entering or exiting the site.

“The fences are being taken down from Friday morning and students are being contacted immediately. Alternative security measures, including additional security patrols are being put in place.

“I apologise once again for the issues caused by this incident.”

Credit: Farris Ramzy

S.A.F.E.R have said of the outcome: “The fences recently erected around Owens Park are going down tomorrow after we expressed our dissatisfaction. For our emails to the accommodation team, visit our story and highlights.

“This is a victory – this has shown us that if enough voices are raised, we can achieve change. Keep getting angry. Keep raising your voice.”

Speaking to The Manchester Tab, UoM Rent Strike said they organised the protest as “a way of building a sense of community and solidarity with so many of us who are struggling, confused, and feeling let down by the University”.

MSG Admin Farris Ramzy told the Manchester Tab: “Once again the university failed to read the room.

“Hindsight is 2020 but the lack of foresight here is shocking. The university has wasted its own resources and further driven a wedge between itself and the students.

“An open line of communication between the university and the students is urgently needed – this could have been avoided if students had prior information on the universities planned actions on campus.”

Feature image credit: Farris Ramzy 

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