Inside the Manchester protests: Everything that happened at Owen’s Park last night

Police turned up to the latest Manchester Uni protests

Yesterday, students occupied Owen’s Park Tower, in a protest organised by UoM Rent Strike, 9K4WHAT? and Students Before Profit.

It was due to be followed by a second protest in Owen’s Park later that evening, organised by student action group SAFER, who were protesting against university tuition fees.

The protest had been due to take place in Owen’s Park, however yesterday SAFER said they had “received a call from the police this morning threatening arrests and fines for the students attending the tuition fees protest tonight”. In the issue of student safety, the group moved the protest online. However, some students still went to Owen’s Park as had been previously planned.

There, students say they were met with police presence, and report “multiple riot vans” also being in attendance.

SAFER told students to remain inside, but to make noise by blasting music, banging pots and pans and posting online with the hashtag #safernow, their overall message being: “Stay indoors, stay safe and raise your voice”.

A student attending SAFER’s protest last night told The Manchester Tab: “Last night at Oak House, a student was being interviewed and a policeman approached us and threatened to fine us, despite how we were standing two metres from the journalist and only mixing with our household.

“Friends of mine also had cameras shoved in their faces by police”.

Away from the SAFER protest, a student involved with the occupation of the Owen’s Park Tower told the The Manchester Tab the university security had stopped them receiving a food delivery.

A student, who had tried to deliver pizza and chips to the occupiers, said that as they were trying to put the food through a window “security came over, grabbed my arm whilst I was trying to push a bag of chips through, threw the chips on the floor and said ‘You can’t f*cking do that lad’.”

However, they said “security have since u-turned on this, and we can now deliver food if its via security”, and a university spokesperson said the students “are able to receive food deliveries”.

Image via UoMRentStrike

A student who attended the SAFER protest said the group were “handing out leaflets on protest safety and encouraging people to only protest in pairs”.

SAFER have told The Manchester Tab a student’s speaker, being used in the protest, was “confiscated” by police, with, they say, “no reason given and no official receipt.”

They said: “He came up and took it halfway through someone giving a speech. No warning, he just came up behind her and walked off with it. They also weren’t social distancing from us and got really up close to us and aggressive.”

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.”

Featured image credit to UoMRentStrike and SAFER.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Free pizza and sofa barricades: What it’s really like inside the Owens Park occupation

Manchester Uni students forced to move out after halls flat flooded by burst pipe

‘The fences were absolutely the last straw’: Manchester students on last night’s protests