Students end sit-in university protest

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STUDENTS who were staging a sit in at Sheffield University’s Arts Tower have agreed to end their occupation after a week of disruption.

All lectures in the building were cancelled or moved elsewhere while the sit-in continued, causing problems for hundreds of undergraduates.

Protesters moved in on the day of the public service workers’ strike to show opposition to Government spending cuts.

University authorities had obtained a possession order which allowed them to end unauthorised occupations.

But original plans to obtain a more general injunction against demonstrators were dropped after objections from a range of student groups.

They attacked the planned High Court order which would have been in force for 12 months and would have compelled students to seek permission for further protest of any kind.

A rally was held on the Western Bank concourse to object to the university’s actions, which were attacked as heavy-handed and draconian.

Student union president Thom Arnold said there had been concern that the proposed court order would have limited rights to protest.

“A number of societies and campaign groups were unhappy and they held a demonstration to make their feelings known,” he said.

Brian Webster, chair of Sheffield Young Greens, added: “The proposed court order was a clear attack on the right of students to make their voices heard on issues of concern to them - at our university, nationally, and globally.”

A university spokesman said he was pleased that the occupation in the Arts Tower had ended after the occupiers left of their own accord.

“The university hopes to get lectures back to normal in the Arts Tower as soon as possible. We took on board concerns of representatives from the Students’ Union regarding the wording in the injunction which was interpreted as preventing protests across the whole campus without permission by the university.

“The University of Sheffield fully supports freedom of speech and the right of students to express their views peacefully and within the law and certainly would not wish in any way to constrain legitimate debate, discussion and protest which does not hamper educational activities.

“A possession order has now been obtained which entitles the university to obtain possession of any university buildings which are occupied for the purposes of a sit-in protest or any other unauthorised occupation. As a result, the injunction has now been withdrawn.”