Inside the People and Planet’s Occupation of the University of Manchester

I don’t know how many of you have taken part or planned an occupation, but the first rule is SECURE A TOILET. Seriously. Two members of our group were separated from us by security for 25 hours with no access to the loo. Pissing in a pot noodle is alliterative but not ideal.

The fossil free campaign at the University of Manchester has run for eight years with no engagement from the senior leadership. During this time, investments in fossil fuels have doubled. In fact, in the last six months, while the climate has risen in the public consciousness, fossil fuels investments have increased by £700,000. Contrast this with Leeds, York, Newcastle, Goldsmiths and UCL (a few examples amongst 78 universities) who have all committed to full divestment, you can see we have a problem. You can see why we’re angry. You can see why we have no other option.

That’s why People & Planet alongside XR Universities Manchester, have been occupying the finance boardroom within the John Owens building since 9am on Tuesday.

It starts with a lot of nerves – you have to sneak into a guarded building like a shit James Bond. But once you make it through the winding corridors and sit yourself down, that euphoric feeling kicks in. Compounding this further, only half an hour in, we managed to get into a meeting that had just started in the finance boardroom opposite us. They left the door open – coincidence or a secret ally? This room has a carpet. It may seem trivial but after spending two nights on guard duty, sleeping on the stone floor, I’d disagree.

From here on it’s been a slow, exhausting game with 24hr guarding (at least eight of them for just over ten of us).

Our Demands:

  1. We demand that the University open a dialogue with their students who have so far been met with silence, repression and condescension on this issue.
  2. We demand the University divest the £11,975,986 they have within the fossil fuel industry.
  3. We demand the University commit to full divestment and pledge not to re-invest.
  4. We demand the University seek out renewable investments that act in accordance with their Social Responsibility Policy.
  5. We demand that the University give regular progress updates on their divestment process and that these be made public in order to ensure transparency.
  6. We demand that the University engage with issues surrounding climate justice and decolonization.
  7. We demand that no punishment be enforced on students who have participated in the occupation.

Seems reasonable, right? Apparently not. It’s taken four days for the University to even begin serious engagement with us. Despite this, we have chosen to remain as leaving here with no commitment to divestment relinquishes any leverage and momentum we’ve built. They’ve not allowed any food to be taken to us, any staff members who do so have had their Names taken down and reported to senior management. We remain strong.

We have a meeting with senior leadership coming up on Monday and so for now we shall continue to occupy over the weekend with hope that this shall bring success. The WIFI and heating being cut will not deter us. No matter how hard this gets, how claustrophobic we feel, we stay strong because we remember why we are doing this. We are doing this for our precious ecosystems, threatened by the very companies our university invests in. We are doing this for future generations across the globe, whose lives will be unavoidably impacted from temperature increases, caused by companies our university invests in. And Especially, we are doing this for indigenous peoples and those in the global south whose land and lives are currently being destroyed by the very fossil fuel companies our university invests in.

“It has come to this! Three decades after the first IPCC report, the very place where science has been produced & developed (universities) has to be dragged kicking & screaming into the 21stcentury by our own students. Why have we demonstrated so little courage & integrity?” – Kevin Anderson 22/11/19, Professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester

Please share everything you can on social media and email any of the contacts below, sharing your support for divestment. These are senior management so please be respectful but share your personal concern.

Twitter: @PeopleUom @XRMCRYOUTH @OfficialUoM @hackettpatricka

Insta: @peopleandplanetuom @xr.mcr.youth @officialuom

Facebook: Fossil Free University of Manchester & Extinction Rebellion Youth Manchester


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