In pictures: The week of Manchester student protests

An insight into the Fallowfield protests which saw ‘hundreds’ attend

“Hundreds” of students at the University of Manchester have been gathering in protest over the last week following the sudden erection of fencing around a number of halls in Fallowfield.

During the first protest, the fencing, which cost the University £11,000, was pushed down.

Following this, the student action group SAFER organised another protest against “the University’s lack of transparency and organisation amidst coronavirus”.

Yesterday morning, students from UoM Rent Strike, Students Before Profit and 9K4WHAT? occupied Owens Park Tower in Fallowfield.

Last night, a protest was due to take place in Owens Park, but organiser SAFER moved it online for student safety after receiving “a call from the police threatening arrests and fines for the students attending the tuition fees protest”. However, some students still went to Owens Park. They say they were met with police presence, and report “multiple riot vans” also being in attendance.

Credit: Felix Kwok, @felixcycat

Credit: Sanad Battikhi

Credit: Sanad Battikhi

Credit: UoM Rent Strike

Credit: Poppy Bilderbeck

Credit: Sanad Battikhi

Credit: Sanad Battikhi

Credit: Felix Kwok, @felixcycat

Credit: Riona

Credit: Bex Hadfield

Credit: Poppy Bilderbeck

Credit: Bex Hadfield

Credit: Riona, Gareth, Phoebe and Millie

Regarding the fences, President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said last week: “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.”

Regarding the Owens Park occupiers and protests, a university spokesperson has said: “A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “We are aware of the protest by just eight students in an empty residential building. Overall, less than one percent of our students have so far withheld their rent and we are already engaging with elected Students’ Union representatives about many of the issues being highlighted by the protestors. The University is fully committed to freedom of expression.

“Contrary to some reports, the students have full access to Wi-Fi – although this was switched off for a period overnight – and they are able to receive food deliveries. The President and Vice-Chancellor has already agreed to meet with student hall representatives and this meeting will take place over the weekend.”

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said: “We were made aware of a planned protest in Fallowfield yesterday (Thursday 12 November 2020) and had been working alongside partners at the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council to encourage the organisers to do the right thing to ensure their own safety and the safety of the wider community.

“Thankfully the organisers of the event engaged with officers and agreed to hold the event in a safe way as to protect themselves and the wider public. We then became aware of a small gathering in an unused tower block on Fallowfield Campus.

“Officers continued to work alongside the university and supported them where necessary to deal with those involved. We engaged with those present that had gathered outside and encourage them to disperse, which they did voluntarily without issue.

“A small number of officers were also present to gather intelligence as per normal procedure at such gatherings.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

‘Ashamed and humiliated’: Manc staff send letter to uni over the Fallowfield fences

Student rent strikers occupy Manchester halls tower block

• Inside the Manchester Uni protest: Everything that happened last night