(By Rosie Neville…)
On Monday morning, the Marxist society expressed their unity with the lecturers union by occupying the Whiteknights building in an attempt to demonstrate a peaceful protest against the university’s response to Universities UK (UUK) pension talks.
After talks between the union (UCU) and UUK failed to achieve a solution striking lecturers were happy with, and it was rumoured that another 14 days of striking may occur, the Marxist society decided to lead a student occupation of a university building.
Aristidis Shukuroglou, the Marxist society’s president, said: “They tried using starvation as a method of breaking the protest. Our supplies were running out, and they tried to force us out by refusing to allow us food.
“I flipped out when they said they would use starvation as a method and one of the lecturers was physically attacked by one of the security. Both a student and a lecturer have been physically confronted by the security outside the building as we try to demonstrate a peaceful protest.”
The seven students, who have now occupied the building for four days, have lawyers working with them for free to offer advice on squatters rights.
Shukuroglou, added: “We are in communication with some lawyers and an organisation which supports squatters rights who said they would help with legal issues free of charge.
“We have only had one f*** off, in general the response has been great. Although we haven’t achieved anything yet, we have made progress. We are in the process of talks with the Vice Chancellor at the moment. The whole point of our protest is to put intense pressure on the Vice Chancellor but they are refusing to compromise.”
A University of Reading spokesman, said: ““A small group of student protesters has occupied the foyer outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office on the third floor of Whiteknights House since approximately 10.15am on Monday 12 March.
“The Vice-Chancellor agreed to meet with the protesters and discuss their position with them, on the condition that they then agreed to leave the building. This offer was rejected and the protesters remain on site.
“The University supports the right to peaceful, lawful protest but we have a duty to our staff in the building and to ensure minimal disruption to University business. We have encouraged the protesters to leave of their own accord.
“The University Executive Board has decided that food from external sources will not be permitted, but food is being provided to the protesters by the University. The group has access to water and toilet facilities.”
More to follow…