Occupations for homeless rights and education in Manchester

Ian Allinson reports from a lively, if soggy, day in Manchester for the occupations in the city centre for homeless rights and at Manchester University for free education.

Banner reads "Fees: 4 years on - still shit"

The homeless rights camp had been in St Peter’s Square, outside the Town Hall, for some weeks while Manchester’s Labour council paid money to drag homeless people through the courts in pursuit of eviction. The protesters had previously moved from Albert Square, on the other side of the Town Hall, to avoid eviction. The campers are mainly homeless people, with a few activists supporting them. The protest has highlighted the treatment of homeless people in the city, and the council has now housed several of the protesters. One of the protesters explained more:

After eviction, protesters relocated to St Anne’s Square, near expensive shopping areas. They briefly occupied an empty marquee in the hope of drying out their gear, but the police threatened arrests and they are now in the main part of the square.

Empty marquee

Threatened with arrest for drying out in empty marquee

Tents in St Anne's Square

Tents in St Anne’s Square

At 1pm students and supporters gathered for a solidarity protest with the students who have been occupying the Harold Hankins building in Manchester Business School as part of the campaign for free education. Manchester University authorities have refused to allow more students to enter the occupation.

Protesters demanded that the authorities lift the siege and let them in. Chants included “Management, get out! We know what you’re about! Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses” as well as chants highlighting the scapegoating of sick people and migrants for the deficit. There was a strong mood for unity with workers – “Solidarity Forever” was one of the favourite songs. The heavy police presence prompted chanting of “ACAB. Cops off university”.

A march around the campus included a rally outside the occupation, where occupiers could watch from the windows. One of the protesters explains more in this video:

As the authorities wouldn’t allow the protesters in to join the existing occupation, they briefly occupied the university’s Visitor Centre – making the point that it would be less disruptive if university management stopped obstructing the right to protest.

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