A student rent protester has described how they were removed by bailiffs from a University of Manchester building in the early hours of the morning, describing it as a “very scary experience”.
Protesters at the University of Manchester are demanding a 30 per cent rent reduction, a rent freeze and a cost-of-living payment of £1,500, among other things.
One method has seen student protesters occupy buildings to communicate their message, with the Simon Building at the heart of the University of Manchester campus occupied since mid February.
The UoM Rent Strike 2023 group said that at around 5.20am on Wednesday a group of bailiffs entered the Simon Building and “began forcefully removing student occupiers” after a possession order was granted in court on Monday and a notice given to occupiers on Tuesday.
They said bailiffs arrived with “no warning” and, after occupiers refused to leave of their own accord, “forcefully dragged and carried them out the building”.
Pictures and video shared by the @rentstrikeUoM Twitter account show people being lifted and removed by workers in black uniform.
One occupier, a 20-year-old student at the University of Manchester who did not wish to be named, said the presence of bailiffs was “terrifying”.
They told the PA news agency: “We all wake up to a massive bang, and about a dozen men in the room all suited and booted telling us to get up and get out.
“I was pushed into a lift while I was standing.
“But I was trying to ensure that everyone that was being carried was safely carried.
“So I was filming.
“There were a lot of people being manhandled – they’re supposed to be about four people per person, but they were like dragging people on the floor and stuff.
“So I was essentially escorting people to the lifts to try and make sure that they got out safely, filming everything, making sure they weren’t left with a bailiff by themselves.
“It’s a very scary experience.
“I think for most of us it was our first experience of a bailiff.
“And they were as terrifying as you think they are.
“It was all quite an intense experience.”
Meanwhile the UoM Rent Strike group says a statement of solidarity with students currently withholding rent and engaging in university building occupation has been signed by MPs such as Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Nadia Whittome.
The 20-year-old protester said that Wednesday’s incident has not discouraged them from attempting to achieve negotiations with the university.
“(The) university makes so much money and everyone’s living conditions are awful,” they said.
“All we want is them to negotiate with us and they just won’t do it.
“It’s really just reminded us why we’re doing this. We have no plans to stop trying to get them to negotiate with us.”
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “On Wednesday morning officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order, on a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since 13 February 2023.
“This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on March 15 2023.
“The Court granted the University a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers.
“We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.”
A spokesperson from Greater Manchester Police told PA that no arrests have been made over the last few days at the university, and around 16 people were removed from the Simon Building.
Related: Rishi Sunak releases long-awaited personal tax documents