Sheffield Arts Tower occupation ends after two weeks, but student rent strike protests continue

Students have ended their Arts Tower occupation after two weeks but rent strike protests in Sheffield are continuing.

Sunday, 9th May 2021, 3:00 pm

University of Sheffield Rent Strike campaigners confirmed yesterday that they had finally left the building on Friday following legal action by bosses at the university.

“The University won a Possession Order, meaning eviction and academic sanctions if we stayed,” they tweeted.

A handful of students had set up camp inside the landmark on April 22 as part of the national Rent Strike protests by students complaining about their treatment during the pandemic and demanding a rent rebate.

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Sheffield's Arts Tower and a message left by student rent strike protesters who had been occupying the building

Sheffield Hallam University students continue to occupy the Cantor Building, where they have also been since April 22.

They have received the backing of former Sheffield mayor and MEP Magid Magid, who showed his support by sending them a pizza.

"Thank you to the amazing @MagicMagid for coming through with the pizza! We’ll save you a slice @ng_mckay @Hallam_VC if you have a meeting with us?” tweeted the demonstrators.

In January, students at both universities withheld thousands of pounds in rent as part of what they claimed was the largest rent strike in the UK in 40 years, amid anger at being made to pay for rooms in halls they were not allowed to return to because of lockdown restrictions.

Protesters say many students have been made to live in ‘squalid’ conditions, despite paying up to £170 a week in rent.

They have also complained about security staff ‘invading’ private rooms, police entering halls without warrants, and university chiefs failing to take sexual violence seriously enough.

Sheffield Hallam University previously said it was ‘committed to continuing dialogue with the rent strike protesters’ and that senior staff had visited demonstrators during the occupation.

The University of Sheffield said following the Arts Tower occupation that it supports students’ rights to protest peacefully but ‘does not condone’ the occupation of a building which causes disruption for other students.

The university said it had been doing its best to support students, including not charging rent to those unable to make use of their university-owned or managed accommodation due to the Government’s restrictions and establishing a £3m Covid Support Fund for those facing financial difficulties.