Saturday, 4 December 2010

Inside the Newcastle student occupation

Steve Brown, from Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in the North East, wrote this about his visit to the Newcastle student occupation:

'I found myself stuck in Newcastle on Monday night due to the cancellation of the buses, and took the opportunity to walk over to the fine arts building at the University to see how the students were getting on in their occupation and asked if there was any other support that they might need.

As I arrived I found them (60+ students) in a full meeting in the lecture theatre making plans for the demonstration the following day. Imagine attending a union meeting where everyone, all 60+, had a full roll to play, are fully geared up to perform several tasks and are completely absorbed and focussed upon getting as organised as possible.

The students have an elected facilitator who was at the front making bullet points on a white board and there was a full size projection (10 feet high) of a laptop where another student was taking notes and updating social networking sites as the meeting progressed. All the deliberations were completely democratic; everyone spoke in turn and were respectful of each others views.

All were very sensitive to each other's contributions and all listened carefully to what was being said in case they missed any important comments. As the meeting progressed the details of the following day emerged as representatives from several 6th form colleges chipped in on how to mobilise their own students, to get them in from the areas. The use of technology was massively evident with wireless networks and many armed with laptops; along with banner making sessions, leaflet and publicity sub groups, some breaking off to liaise with the police, talk to the press, organise stewarding and tackle any emerging problems as they arose.

This answers any myths that our youth are unruly and unfocussed, are not politically engaged or conscious and don’t know how to conduct themselves in an organised fashion. They are an inspiration to us all!

As with all such occupations (the last one I attended was in 1983 at the Howden Water Works) the facilities were frugal with sleeping bags and an improvised food preparation area. Spirits are high however, with revolutionary sing-songs and no evidence of alcohol present. Support has been forthcoming from fellow none-occupation students and other supporters with a delivery, while I was there, of 60 pizzas, and other supplies.

They are well dug in with even the security guards, that the college have deployed, being behind them and sympathetic to their plight and the future of youth in general. One guard commented, "I've got a cousin with a kid going to college soon and I don't see how it's going to happen. Who can blame these kids for doing what they are doing!”.

The students are adamant they will stay for as long as it takes, are absolutely right in what they are doing, and should be invited to speak at as many meetings of the Public Services Alliance and union meetings as possible. The bridges need to be built between them and the wider TU and Labour movement. We ignore this at our peril!

I would encourage all to visit them as they are keen to get as much support as possible. If you do go, take along some food or drink to help them out, take along messages of support too from your unions or local Labour Parties.'

Reproduced from

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