They came from 20 universities across the country, and the banners spanned languages from Greek to Arabic. Free buses poured in from London and many arrived the night before, for one of Britain’s largest protests in recent years and a reminder that the Occupy movement is still alive.
For almost two months, students have occupied the conference room of a Sussex University administration building, resisting regular attempts to evict them. On Monday, they were joined by over 2,000 supporters, and the nominal cause – opposing 235 staff job cuts at the university – became an agenda for a new national protest movement.
It was also about “f***ing s**t up” according to some of the advance publicity, and a march through campus quickly turned nasty. A building where the much-maligned university vice-chancellor was rumored to be was surrounded and masked youths scaled the roof and lit flares. The glass doors were smashed and equipment set ablaze. As police arrived, the crowd pushed them back chanting, “Off our campus!”, and forced them into retreat. “Lots of Occupy Sussex were happy to talk today,” a spokesman said afterwards. “Sadly there were also others who had a very different agenda.”
The thousand-strong crowd then proceeded to the occupation site, which had been abandoned by security. Activists tore down barriers into new areas of the building, smashing CCTV cameras and placing door-blocks. When the whole building was “under student control”, a general assembly using Occupy meeting rules was swiftly convened.
In a celebratory atmosphere, a proposal for a national student strike was approved, as well as wide-scale disruptive action. “We hope this can be a spark to re-ignite the fight back,” Occupier Zoe told Metro. “Apathy has gone too far and now we want this spirit to spread to other universities.”