Inside the Manchester Uni protest: Everything that happened last night

‘We have really underestimated just how angry and frustrated people are’

Last night saw “hundreds” of Manchester students gather outside Owens Park in protest.

The protest was inspired by the sudden erection of fencing around a number of UoM halls which students speaking to The Manchester Tab said they were given no warning about. The University of Manchester later confirmed the fencing was a result of “new security measures” due to the national lockdown.

After a huge negative reaction yesterday, the University said the fencing would be removed today. However, the protest still went ahead, and last night protesters pushed down the fencing.

Credit: Sanad Battikhi

UoM Rent Strike, the organisers of the protest said to The Manchester Tab: “It’s not just about the fencing, the fencing is just an example of the unis poor response as a whole.

“Even we (who thought we’d been speaking to the angriest and most frustrated students and parents throughout the campaign) have really underestimated just how angry and frustrated people are.

“We had a couple of speakers, but honestly the whole thing was over in almost 40 minutes, including the time the fences took to get down.

“It was really spontaneous so we didn’t have a specific order of events.”

Credit: Riona

In a video seen by The Manchester Tab, one student with a megaphone can be seen saying: “We have been lied to. they promised us a safe campus, they made us come here, yet they continue to blame the students for the spread of the virus.

“We are the ones that are paying for this. We are the ones paying thousands of pounds.”

In other videos crowds of students can be heard chanting “f**k the fence” and “Boris is a w*nker”.

Another student who spoke to The Manchester Tab said: “We went towards the end for social distancing because we saw it was busy, but all the fences were pushed over and security were just filming rather than doing anything.”

Credit: Felix Kwok

After protestors tore the fencing down last night, 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.”

Not long after the protest during which the fences were torn down, one student said to The Manchester Tab: “I guess we saved them the work”.

Credit: Sanad Battikhi

This afternoon, following the events of last night, President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said: “Firstly, I want to apologise again for the distress caused by putting up the fence yesterday and the very poor communication surrounding this.

“I am determined to find out what went wrong and to learn from it.

“As a matter of urgency, I have commissioned an inquiry into these events. This will be conducted by Professor Clive Agnew, a former Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students, and our intention is to also include a former Students’ Union Officer.

“They will examine how and, for what reasons, the decision to erect the fence around the residences on the Fallowfield campus was taken and how this decision was – or wasn’t – communicated to students.

“The report will be submitted by the end of November and we will publish the full report as soon as possible for all to see.

“I will also be meeting with student representatives from the Fallowfield residences as soon as possible, together with our Director for the Student Experience, Dr Simon Merrywest.

“I know the events of yesterday were distressing for many students on a personal level at what is already a very difficult time. I’m sorry for that. I also regret that our actions led to protests and unrest at the residences last night. The fence has been removed today and, in consultation with students, additional security measures will be put in place to help to keep all of our residents safe.

“We would like students to write to us with suggestions about how we can improve safety across our campus sites. Please contact [email protected] with your suggestions.

“If you have been affected by anything that has happened either yesterday or during your time with us so far, or just want to speak to someone then our counselling and support services are available to you. Advice and Response staff will be present at the Fallowfield site next week for one-on-one sessions and we will be holding check in and chat sessions over Zoom. Details of these arrangements will be sent shortly. You can also speak to your ResLife advisors for wellbeing or any other concerns.

“Finally, I want to reiterate that I am truly sorry for the events of yesterday.”

Featured Image: Felix Kwok, @felixcycat

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Protesting Manchester students tear down the fences put up around halls

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• UoM Rent Strike is holding a protest at Owens Park tonight, after the new fencing