In response to this BBC article, posted on the 18th January 2011 we would like to make the following statement on behalf of the students who occupied the university on the 17th January.
Regarding the university's claim that 'those protesting today are not elected representatives of the student body', we utterly reject the implication that this justifies the violent eviction of an otherwise peaceful occupation. All students have the right to protest peacefully whether elected or not. Moreover it is factually incorrect, there were several elected student representatives participating in the occupation, including three of the university's seven recently elected NUS delegates, a NUS Disabled Student committee member, the student Ethical and Environmental Officer and two guild councillors. Most of these people (if not all) are well known to the university and the student union, and, as such, we are asking the university to retract their false statements, issue corrections, and refrain from issuing such misleading comments in future.
In regard to the university's claim that the occupation ended 'at the point that protesters charged at security staff without warning... six security guards, supported by two police officers, then moved forward into the occupied area'; we ask is it very likely that a small group of mostly female 18-20 year old protesters staging a sit-in would 'charge without warning' at six large trained security men and two police officers? We have various witness testimony that says otherwise. Would there be any doubt as to who would come out on top in such a confrontation? What purpose would initiating violence serve, considering it was in the students' interests to stay and the university was hoping to remove them? Why, if students 'without warning' initated violence against security staff and police officers, were there no arrests? Why did the university refuse to allow members of staff to witness the eviction as independent observers? Could the university's version of events be a weak attempt to fabricate a pretext for violently breaking up a peaceful protest which they didn't want?
As a reply to the police calling us "abusive and un-cooperative" students, we have testimony from union and staff members which would suggest otherwise. We would suggest that a charge of 'un-cooperative' be levelled against the university and police instead for not allowing access to clean water and sanitation to those inside until their phone lines were flooded with complaints, or denying access to other students in and out of the occupied area. Indeed, 'un-cooperative' is a very generous description of the universities behaviour considering the disproportionate threat and actual use of force by the university and police, which arguably in many cases constituted common assault (and is being reported as such by those involved).
West Midlands Police also commented that: "Students were abusive and un-cooperative and several students were pushed.[...]Police went to assist security staff and an officer accidentally clashed heads with a student. That student then called police at 6.47pm to report an assault." The incident in question involved a police officer approaching a student, who was stationery and had his arms linked with two others, and, without warning, headbutting him whilst shouting "STOP!". The student left the building in shock with a large cut and bruise on his face. The incident has been reported to West Midlands Police.
We would like to note a previous BBC article. In this article, in reference to a previous action conducted by the occupiers, West Midlands Police said it "...couldn't have been more different from the violent clashes seen recently in London" and thanked the students for their "controlled, sensible manner".
Our own account of events of the eviction can be found in full here