University of Manchester students vote to ban police and army from the SU building

A policy to ban police and armed forces from the SU unless legally required passed with a 68 per cent majority


Manchester Students’ Union Assembly has passed a motion by 68 per cent to ban police and the army from the Students’ Union building and to push the university to ban them from campus.

60 students gathered in the theatre in UoM SU, for the first of three annual Union Assemblies.

A Union Assembly needs over 40 participants and a two thirds majority to pass a policy and both of these were reached.

The policy covers SU property only and will not affect the ability of the police to come into the SU if called to investigate a crime.

The policy includes: “The SU will take an actively anti-police and armed forces bigotry stance and show solidarity with those affected by police and armed forces violence.”

“The SU will not call the police on protesters unless there is a threat to safety or the law is being broken.”

Students heard from Syd King, the SU’s part-time Disabled Students Officer, who proposed the policy.

He argued the presence of the police and armed forces in the SU building went against the SU’s commitment to creating a safe space for minorities.

He quoted an independent scrutiny panel which found Greater Manchester Police to be “institutionally racist” in July 2021.

These findings also included Greater Manchester Police officers using descriptions of a black person’s appearance as a reason to use force against them.

The panel found black people four times more likely to have police force used against them.

At the time of the report being published, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable, Stephen Watson rejected these claims.

He said: “Do I think GMP (Greater Manchester Police) is institutionally racist? My answer would be no, I don’t think that. I do not for one second deny that in any organisation which is the thick end of 12,000 people-strong, we may actually find ourselves from time to time employing somebody who behaves in a racist way, who commits offences.

“I do not accept that GNP is institutionally racist, but I do accept that a lot of people think we are. And their view is really important because they are the folks that we serve, and so we have to address those concerns head on.”

Syd also claimed that police have a culture of misogyny,  giving an example from last year when police “stripped a female protester in public” and referred to government findings of police neglect towards victims of sexual violence.

In response to the arrest of the female protestor Greater Manchester Police said: “All available evidence relating to the arrest of a protester partially exposed after Saturday’s protest in Manchester has been initially reviewed.

“This includes body-worn video from the arresting officers and while it is clear the circumstances were made incredibly difficult and the outcome was not deliberate, the incident was indeed regrettable.”

He quoted a GMP officer who said: “I wouldn’t feel confident reporting a crime to my own police force.”

Syd concluded: “The armed forces and police offer little to no protection to students, and at worst, they actively harm & scare already oppressed groups of students in a space that we are paying to be in, and have no choice but to attend.”

A member of union staff gave background context and a statement from the trustee board was read out: “The Trustee Board will respect the outcome of the policy vote, however they wish to ensure that no matter what the outcome, these additional lines of communication with the police remain open, both remotely and within the building where necessary.”

Students then deliberated in small groups and concerns were raised that the the Trustee statement did not explain why meetings with the police could not be held outside of the SU building if they were committed to respecting the policy.

Several students described their experiences of police harassment on campus during the 2020-2021 lockdowns.

Students then voted on the policy which was passed by a 68 per cent majority.

The meeting then ended with announcements from Cops Off Campus and Dr Remi Joseph-Salisbury asking students to get in touch with their experiences of police.

Cops Off Campus said legal observer patrols will become active on campus again if needed. Dr Joseph-Salisbury is part of a team conducting research into student experience of police and Security.

Superintendent Richard Timson, responsible for Operation Student Safe for Greater Manchester Police, told The Manchester Tab: “We work really closely with universities, student unions and partners to keep the university community safe and to allow students to have the best possible experience of studying and living here in Manchester.

“Although the outcome of the vote is disappointing, it will not affect our commitment to work with the University of Manchester’s Student Union and our other partners to engage and protect students in the city.”

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Featured image credit via Ethan Wilkinson on Unsplash