Student protesters occupy Goldsmiths library ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary vote

Photo: Seb Wheeler

Students have occupied Goldsmiths college library as part of ongoing protests against tuition fee rises and the Coalition Government’s spending cuts for education.

The protesters are currently refusing to allow library staff to work but the library is operating as usual; with students using automated services to take out and return books.

The occupation began when 150 students entered the library on Lewisham Way in New Cross last night and refused to leave at the designated closing hour of midnight. The occupation is not led by Goldsmiths’ Students’ Union, who decided to withdraw when the decision to stop staff working was reached.

A core group of 60 stayed throughout the night, bedding down in sleeping bags, while others went home for the night but returned this morning.

The group released a statement of intent this morning: “We oppose the proposed change in fees structure and the cuts to teaching subsidies across education in the UK – which will include a 100 per cent cut to funding for teaching in arts, humanities and social sciences.”

The statement also contained a list of demands directed at Goldsmiths management. They are calling for the management to make a public statement in opposition to the cuts to education and the tuition fee rises, and to defend Goldsmiths activists involved in anti-cuts campaigning.

The protesters also want Goldsmiths management to retract a £15,000 bill that was charged to the Students’ Union after an occupation of Goldsmiths-owned Deptford Town Hall in November.

They released another statement this afternoon saying: “The struggle will not be confined to students. Our occupied space will be a hub for activism, for committed inquiry and for broad political discussion.” Throughout the day, a spontaneous time-table of free lectures, film showings and art installations was held.

The protesters are hoping to garner support for the occupation by connecting with other like-minded students and local residents in the area. Arami Nkaa, a media and sociology undergraduate, 18, who was using the library today but was not involved in the protest, said: “I think [the occupation] is a good thing. I think you have to have a bit of sacrifice for the greater good.”

The occupation has taken place despite Goldsmiths’ management threatening to charge all costs incurred by such protests to the Students’ Union; a move that has been branded as blackmail by the SU in a response posted on their blog.

Goldsmiths’ Students’ Union President, Bindz Patel, said: “We support everything that’s being demanded, apart from that which says we won’t let library staff work.”

Goldsmiths students and staff are also planning other actions in the run-up to Thursday’s parliamentary ballot on tuition fees, and the national demonstration in London on the day.

A general assembly will be held this evening, followed by a protest outside the constituency office of Simon Hughes, who is deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons and MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey. Mr. Hughes has refused to indicate whether he will keep his pre-election pledge to vote against a rise in fees.

On Thursday, a nationwide university walkout and demonstration is planned. Protestors are to assemble at the University of London Students’ Union on Malet St, for a 1pm march to Parliament, called by ULU and London region UCU. A 3.30 rally at Victoria Embankment will be held by UCU and the National Union of Student’s, followed by a candlelit vigil at Parliament, at 4.30.

See previous coverage of protests regarding the cuts here.

All photos by Seb Wheeler

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