Movie nights and Nerf battles: What it’s really like inside the Sam Alex occupation

‘We’ll stick it out for as long as it takes’

Students protesting the University of Manchester’s treatment of students and staff, have now been occupying the Samuel Alexander building for nearly two weeks.

Yet as the day goes by, the occupation shows little sign of letting up. From sleeping in lecture theatres to creating a pulley system for food supplies, the occupiers have learnt to adapt to their new surroundings.

Amongst the occupiers’ demands are a 30 per rent rebate for semester two in UoM halls; a cash rebate of £1,500 for all students; elections for uni management positions; an end to police patrols on campus; and no redundancies for staff.

The occupation is composed of UoM Rent StrikeCops Off CampusNancy Out and Student and Staff Solidarity. Most of those involved are first year students for whom this has been their first ever experience in a classroom or lecture hall.

They’ve been making the most of the study spaces too, with about a dozen occupied common rooms and classrooms allowing them to keep up with uni work alongside activism.

Joel Wall, a first year student, and occupier said: “I’ve got more work done here than I would back in my halls. It’s an absolutely enermous six floor building, that we have essentially complete control of.

“We’ve had so much amazing support from the wider community dropping off food and supplies that we then lift up using a pulley system.”

Occupiers have also found ways to keep themselves entertained in the evenings, from screenings of movies like Pride to giant Nerf battles across the entire building (something we all secretly want to do).

To keep up morale they’ve been Zooming with fellow occupiers at the University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

Joel says the most emotional Zoom call though was one with ex-miners who spoke about the solidarity they had during their strikes during the 80s.

“I think everyone was on the verge of tears by the end, hearing what they’d been through especially the brutality from police at the Battle of Orgreave. So the fact they were willing to reach out to us and show us solidarity has given us so much strength.”

“We’re going to keep going until our demands are met and we’ll stick it out for as long as it takes.”

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “A small number of students are currently occupying an area in one of our buildings without permission.

“Staff are on site to ensure safety and welfare. We would ask that the students leave. We understand that some of our students have concerns and we are continuing to work closely with their elected representatives.”

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‘We won’t leave until our demands are met’: UoM students occupy Sam Alex building

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