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University takes legal steps to end occupation

The University of Sussex has been granted an injunction to prevent a repetition of the kind of violent protest seen on campus on Monday (25 March) and to pave the way towards ending the occupation of the Conference Centre in Bramber House.

The University has taken this step after the group occupying the space in Bramber House called for many thousands of people to come to campus on Monday to take part in the protest, which led to violence and damage to University property.

John Duffy, Registrar & Secretary, said: "The steps we are taking are specifically around the occupation and the violence we experienced on Monday. The University is categorically not banning peaceful demonstrations that don’t involve occupations. We will continue to respect our students’ freedom to demonstrate peacefully on our campus.”

“While we had made clear to occupiers that their sit-in was unacceptable, we had tolerated it for several weeks because we could contain it without undue disruption to the day-to-day operation of the University.

“The occupation had for the most part been peaceful, although there had been petty acts of vandalism and breaches of University health and safety policy.

“Prior to Monday’s demonstration, however, we had become increasingly concerned about the attitude of the occupiers towards staff and other students and to University property and about their increasing willingness to invite people on to campus who had no connection with Sussex.”

The protest on Monday was arranged without liaison with the University or the local police. It was advertised in London via posters and online videos inciting aggressive action. There were also online discussions of how people could avoid arrest if taking part in unlawful activity.

When the demonstration reached Sussex House, protesters smashed the glass doors at the main entrance, looted and set fire to documents, dismantled fire alarms and CCTV cameras, climbed onto the roof and set off flares, daubed slogans on interior walls and barricaded the main stairway. (See photos.)

Staff working in Sussex House felt threatened and intimidated and were escorted from the building by security staff. When they returned to the building, staff found that some personal belongings and money, as well as office supplies, had been stolen.

In Bramber House, the occupiers subsequently broke down doors in the Conference Centre to gain access to other areas of the building. They also occupied seminar rooms that would normally be used for teaching and learning.

John Duffy said: “We have now embarked on this legal process to prevent a repetition of the type of violent protest we saw on campus on Monday and to pave the way to ending the occupation so that we can restore our conference and teaching space in Bramber House to full use.

“We simply can no longer tolerate an occupation that gives rise to this kind of behaviour.

Given Monday’s events, the University has decided that, in the interests of staff, student and visitor safety, no services will be provided from Bramber House for the time being. The University will update staff and students when the situation changes.

John Duffy added: “In relation to our plans to work with external partners for catering and facilities management, we have a long and properly established process under way and we are engaged with the campus trades unions to ensure that staff transferring under our plans are treated decently and fairly. It is vital that we devote our full attention to this important work.”

Download and read the full injunction [PDF 28MB].

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Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Wednesday, 27 March 2013