Warwick solidarity sit-in
Following on from a post-vigil discussion, a group of Warwick students decided to occupy a university room in solidarity with the victims on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Starting on 21st January in S0.21 and lasting nine days, the sit-in was one of a nationwide wave of occupations reacting to the recent conflict in Gaza. Fitting in with the style of other occupations, the Warwick sit-in demanded that books and computer equipment be sent to bombed universities in Palestine, along with a series of talks on the conflict and a cessation of dealings with arms companies supplying the conflict (such as BAE Systems). The uniting belief amongst the group was that the murder of innocent civilians in any war is wrong, and that everything should try to be done to alleviate the suffering.
Against the plans of the occupiers – who wanted lectures to continue with a few occupiers symbolically remaining – the university moved most lectures from S0.21. During the evenings, we hosted a variety of talks (from local councillor Rob Windsor, Anarchists Against the Wall and the Director of Greenpeace), films such as “Tracers”, and visits from renowned activists such as Peter Tatchell and Vandana Shiva. With over 300 people signing the door of S0.21 in solidarity, the highest EGM turn out in 10 years to debate whether or not the Students’ Union should support the students’ actions (during which 84% of students voted in favour), and the real possibility of united nationwide student activism, the importance of the sit-in cannot be underestimated. Could this indicate a revival of student action on political affairs?
Go Vegan Month
In the month prior to Go Green Week a ‘go vegan’ challenge was organised by the Animal Rights and Vegetarian Society and People and Planet. The challenge was organised to encourage people to think about the environmental impact of their diet – the animal industry being particularly damaging to the environment. Around 20 people took up the challenge, supported by an introductory pack of recipes, nutritional information and useful websites and by the regular bring-and-share parties held. The aim of the month was to show that a vegan diet, as well as being good for the environment, is easy, nutritious and interesting. For more information or a copy of the support pack email email@example.com – or join in next year!
Police photo ban
February 16th saw the introduction of Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 which criminalises anyone eliciting, publishing or communicating information on members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” In a nutshell, you could be arrested for taking and publishing a picture of a police officer unless you can prove that you had a “reasonable excuse” to take the picture in the first place. Photographers and protestors have interpreted this law as a ban on photographing the police in an attempt to suppress evidence the police do not want used against them.
E.ON offside: Student activists target FA-Cup sponsors
The campaign against E.ON – the energy giants funding the new coal power station at Kingsnorth, whilst using large amounts of greenwash to give itself a “clean” image – is ongoing. Warwick students have used E.ON’s sponsorship of the FA Cup to highlight their dirty tactics to a relatively unbadgered section of society. On Saturday 7th March, eleven students (two dressed as referees) set out to the Coventry vs Chelsea quarter-final armed with “E.ON F.OFF” cards to distribute to the pre-match masses. This action followed on from a similar stunt at the Coventry vs Blackburn Rovers match on Tuesday 24th February, and was part of a network of national actions, which also targeted football matches in London. The well-coordinated action was an effective way of reaching out to thousands of people who may not have thought about the implications of climate change before, or associated E.ON with dirty energy.
Fruit of the Loom demo
Over twenty protestors took part in a demonstration at the Fruit of the Loom headquarters in Telford, Shropshire on Tuesday 3rd March. The protest was organised by People and Planet and comprised Warwick, Birmingham, Aston and Stratford university students. The group were opposed to actions of Russell Corporation, a subsidiary of Fruit of the Loom, which announced the closure of a University apparel assembly line in Honduras earlier this year when its workers attempted to form a trade union. The aim of capturing media attention was achieved through a die-in, elaborate grape costumes, colourful banners and rowdy chanting. Students make up a significant proportion of Fruit of the Loon’s customers and we are well placed to put pressure on them. Eighteen universities in the United States have already cut ties with Russell Corporation causing over $5 million of supply contracts to be lost.
Alex Callinicos visits Warwick
Alex Callinicos, Marxist academic and political theorist, visited Warwick University on Thursday 5th March to talk about the ongoing and well-developed process of neoliberalisation of higher education. Discussing many of the themes raised in his pamphlet ‘Universities in a Neoliberal World’, he sharply criticised the extensive application of the logic of the market to education and the harnessing of university research for business interests. He was also critical of Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI and Chancellor of Warwick University, who has done much to advocate closer university-business relations. An interview with Alex Callinicos is featured in this issue of Dissident.
Early Day Motion 1085
Students from Warwick were in Parliament on Wednesday 18th March lobbying MPs to sign Early Day Motion 1085. The EDM is aimed at ensuring that the forthcoming Fees Review of university and student finance represents students, supports their needs and recognises that unmanageable levels of debt are bad for both borrower and lender. Mohammed Surve, Education Officer of our Students’ Union, is leading a campaign to encourage students to write to their MPs informing them of the EDM and urging them to sign it. There will be a stall ouside SUHQ as well as visits to campus kitchens during weeks 2-4 of Term 3 to facilitate this letter-writing. We must show our Union, the university and the government that we still care about fees ahead of the review, which is due to launch in November.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Climate change day of action
On Thursday 19th March, 1,000 protestors, including a group of Warwick students, attended a day of action organised by Christian Aid and Stop Climate Chaos to target E.ON. The energy company’s headquarters, located within walking distance from Warwick campus, have been targeted by climate change protestors on numerous occasions this year. These include a demo led by Warwick students in Term 1, and a theatrical direct action in December during which 30 Santas delivered coal to the naughty E.ON executives. A dozen Warwick students took part on the latest day of action which began with a service in Coventry Cathedral and was followed by a New Orleans-style funeral march through the city centre finishing outside E.ON’s head offices at Westwood Business Park.
Thousands of people took to the streets of London ahead of, and during, the G20 summit on April 2nd. The wave of protests began on Saturday 28th March when around 40,000 people from numerous organisations and groups took part in the ‘Put People First’ march for ‘jobs, justice and climate.’ April 1st saw thousands of protesters spreading out to reclaim space in the financial centre of the capital and take part in diverse actions to draw links between the economic crisis, climate change and the ‘war on terror’. The protests ranged from a climate camp on Bishopsgate targeting the European Carbon Exchange, a group of demonstrators converging at the Bank of England following a march behind the ‘Four Horsefolk of the Apocalypse,’ and a Stop The War Coalition-led gathering at Trafalgar Square. Police tactics were heavily condemned after numerous incidents of violence such as that outside the Bank of England where lines of riot police engaged in direct confrontation with demonstrators and thousands of protesters were held in ‘containment pens.’ A 47-year-old man, Ian Tomlinson, died after collapsing inside the police cordons. The climate camp demonstration was also ‘kettled in’ as night fell before protestors were dispersed by baton-wielding officers and police dogs pushing through lines of tents and bicycles at around midnight. Around thirty Warwick students attended the various demonstrations; look out for the publication detailing their experiences and analysing the media coverage of the protests.