Live report from the Bramber House Occupation
6pm (12th March) Luqman Onikosi himself has released a statement about the university’s response to the occupation in Bramber House:
“Thank you very much for all that has participated in the occupation/demo on scene and behind the scenes! you are all my SUPER FANTASTIC and MY PERSONAL HEROES!
While I am ok with the demands put forward to the university and the response to the university statement made by students on behalf of the campaign Home Office Off Campus.Which I am indebtedly grateful to for the clear headedness, cleverness and robustly articulated critique of the university statement and challenging the university to readdress and review its own position on the Tory government/ Home Office PREVENT and International Students and Staff Licensing.
However, I am worried that no concrete constructive demand was put to our local Union, the University of Sussex Students’ Union (USSU) for its systemic representative failure of the Non EU International Student at the Union level and the university level.
For me it is no point making a demand to the university, where as the USSU which is supposed to be a fighting Union by holding the university accountable for its lack of support for non eu international students and to protect these students both Home Students that are rising up to demand the right for Non EU International students, should they get in to trouble doing so, as well as non EU international students whose rights that had consistently and systemically been swept under the institutional carpet and trampled upon and leaving the Non EU International students disenfranchised and disillusioned in seeking help when experienceing academic, social, mental, economic and personal crisises or even participating in the USSU.
The reason why the university was able to dodge the question as regards making a public position on where they stand or even challenge the human rights legality of PREVENT in free academic spaces and the International Students and Staff Recruitment Licencing (as if we are cattle or chattel slaves) in their statement is because we have no fighting USSU which strength has been curtailed and damped during Wes Streeting MP – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wes_Streeting, the former NUS president 2008/10 reforms of local student union, by making the our Union unaccountable and setting up unelected Board of Trustees and charity clause of the USSU. The university knows that we have no definitive USSU and cross country Students’ Union and NUS full MIGHT behind us, yet because the USSU is broken and lack fighting spirit.
Even if the university agrees to talk about PREVENT and International Student and Staff Licensing, as soon as the momentum dissipate, USSU will go back to its bureaucratic business as usual mode.
I don t know want my case to be simply resolved but consequentially, making it even more difficult for Non EU International students and Home Students to unite and to rise up and speak out because the universities will seek more law to tighten the loophole that has allow us so far to maintain the uprising momentum and campaign. Because the Sussex university will do every thing in its power to protect cash cowing profit making of Non EU International students.
Please I beg you fellow Sussex students and UK non EU international and Home students, women, LGBTQI+ Black Students, Mature Students lets use this chance to put demands or ‘MOTIONS’ to our local unions eg USSU to transform its sleepy headed systemic law to tackle the systemic under representation of Non EU International, PREVENT, International Student Licensing like a chattel cattle and slaves for profit and to put back the fight spirit in the heart of the local Unions, NUS and specially USSU. Also I will urges us to link with students Union across the country doing sometime similar campaign and building similar momentum that the students at Sussex and Brighton universities are doing to speak against PREVENT and international student licensing to unite and we can take the fight to the NUS who past leaders bastardised our local unions with the Wes Streeting MP neo libral reforms of local unions.
University of Sussex most resume and re take its place as a radical university as it embarks on ‘Making the Future: 2018’ agenda to internationalise education, as its founding pioneers has set Sussex up to be to resist UK state and Commonwealth states violences in academic free space. While the USSU most continue and must re take its rightful place as fighting internationalised union against global suppression and oppression and violence of UK neo liberal state and it CommonWealth apparatuses to clamour for global justice.
Aluta Continua Victoria acerta
Luqman Ripp Em Onikosi”
11.50am (12th March) The former occupiers of Bramber House have issued the following statement in response to the university. They have organized a debriefing on Monday to plan what to do next, and will have a meeting with management on Tuesday to negotiate.
Importantly, they take issue with the university’s claim that nothing can be done to oppose the home office: “We demand that the University publicly state your opposition to Luqman’s deportation. We believe that the University’s claim that “the University is not able to make any further public statement in respect to the Home Office” is disingenuous. Whilst we do not want to risk the status and safety of other international students and staff, we still demand that the University stands with us against the Home Office by issuing a statement. Whilst we realise that the University of Sussex cannot take direct action against the rulings of the Home Office, it is within your power to release a statement stating your opposition to certain aspects of Home Office legislation on moral grounds. We demand that the University release this statement as soon as possible to show an understanding of the University’s obligation to us as students.”
The full statement is below:
Thank you for the swift response. Whilst we appreciate your concessions and concerns we feel that many of our demands have been overlooked, and that University management has not done everything in their power to support our campaign.
Please find our response below.
1. Award Luqman his MA.
The University’s response has not addressed our demand that they award Mr Luqman Onikosi his MA in Global Political Economy. We demand that the University award him his MA, and additionally we require full legal investigation into the possibility of reinstating Mr Onikosi to his research position at the University.
2. End collaboration with the Home Office, including legally and politically challenging Prevent and International Student Licensing. We also demand that the University publicly state your opposition to Luqman’s deportation.
We believe that the University’s claim that “the University is not able to make any further public statement in respect to the Home Office” is disingenuous. Whilst we do not want to risk the status and safety of other international students and staff, we still demand that the University stands with us against the Home Office by issuing a statement.
Whilst we realise that the University of Sussex cannot take direct action against the rulings of the Home Office, it is within your power to release a statement stating your opposition to certain aspects of Home Office legislation on moral grounds. We demand that the University release this statement as soon as possible to show an understanding of the University’s obligation to us as students.
We welcome the University’s proposal to raise Prevent as an agenda item for the next Council meeting. However, in reality, this is no more than words. We demand that Prevent is put at the top of the Agenda and that there is significant student representation of our choosing at the Council meeting where they will discuss Prevent. We demand an open meeting where all students can attend as observers and any Student Rep and Student Union staff should be able to speak freely and be heard on this matter.
3. Convert the 50 fee scholarships for refugees into full scholarships including living support
We demand 50 full scholarships for refugees and asylum seekers. In addition to the 50 Syrian English language scholarships that you have launched, which we fully support, we want 50 full refugee scholarships. We demand the University cover full tuition fees and living costs for 50 refugees and asylum seekers to study any degree they wish at the University of Sussex.
4. Conduct an immediate review of curriculum with the Sussex school of Global Studies Initiative: Decolonizing Education: Towards Academic Freedom In Pluriversality (DETAFIP).
The University’s proposal to “conduct a comprehensive review of all curricula to ensure that they represent the truly global institution that Sussex is” is a welcome step in the right direction, but we do not believe it goes far enough. We demand that this review and following changes must be done in close partnership with the already established Global Studies initiative “Decolonizing Education: Towards Academic Freedom In Pluriversality” (DETAFIP). We know we are much stronger working together, and that student and staff engagement and participation in the matter will make this infinitely more fruitful.
Finally, we demand an open meeting with University management as soon as possible to discuss the above proposals. This must take place before the Easter break.
Home Office Off Campus”
I can confirm that I have heard from a number of protesters that they are indeed at the Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre demonstration today, calling on the government to stop using detention centres – and carrying #DontDeportLuqman banners
10am, the day after the occupation ended peacefully (12th March). This is the statement the university sent the occupiers. Since receiving it yesterday there has been a consensus amongst the protesters that it isn’t enough, and that the university puts too much blame on the Home Office. The University continues to state as it has from the start of the #DontDeportLuqman campaign: ‘…the University is unable to influence the decision of the Home Office in relation to Mr Onikosi’s visa’. ‘Morally’, one protester said to me, ‘it is totally wrong for them to do this when the issue at stake is the life of a student in their care.’ A protester who spoke to URF said that it seemed like a step in the right direction and she hoped negotiations would continue and get better.
“FROM THE UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT:
REQUESTS IN RELATION TO THE BRAMBER HOUSE ACTION
The University recognises the support by staff and students for Luqman Onikosi and understands the strong feelings that many of our campus community has in relation to his plight. Although the University is unable to influence the decision of the Home Office in relation to Mr Onikosi’s visa, we are sympathetic to his position and that of his supporters.
Last night a meeting was held with the PVC of Learning, Professor Clare Mackie, four representatives of Mr Onikosi’s supporters and two of the Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers. PVC Mackie listened to the group and following this meeting, the University has considered the points and responded below.
1. Although the University appreciates the group’s position in relation to Mr Onikosi’s visa status, the University is not able to make any further public statement in respect to the Home Office. The University has around 2000 students and 90 members of staff who require a special visa in order to study and work in the UK. We cannot do anything which risks the visa status of these people.
2. The University believes it currently has an inclusive Teaching and Learning strategy. All staff have the academic freedom to pursue their own discipline interests, without the constraints or input from University management.
However, we will conduct a comprehensive review of all curricula to ensure that they represent the truly global institution that Sussex is. PVC Mackie will raise this matter at the Teaching and Learning Committee meeting next week. The Committee will ask all Directors of Teaching and Learning, in each of our academic schools, to assess the current module reading list and review all curricula.
3. We have heard the group’s points in relation to the Government’s Prevent agenda. The University’s governing Council, of which the Students’ Union President is a member, is required to ensure that Sussex is compliant with the Government’s requirements. We will ensure Prevent is raised as an agenda item at the next Council meeting in April so as to ensure the concerns of the group, via the Students’ Union President, is heard.”
7.25pm (11th March) the occupation may be over, but discussions are ongoing about how to keep up the pressure on the university and Home Office. There is talk of further demos and open meetings, and people are clearly not resting even after three days of arduous occupation.
The occupiers have just promised to exclusively share a copy of the university’s statement with The Badger; I will put it up here soon.
7pm (11th March) In Falmer Common Room I watched the occupiers sift through all the food which had been donated to them and which they still had, and all the bedding people had brought. It struck me how generous everyone had been. There were at least four bags of food left over, and I remembered all the times I’d seen people lift bags of food and sanitary products up tied to a long rope up to Bramber House Balcony. Now, by 7pm, everything has been sorted through – people have set off carrying duvets and blankets back to a particular house they can be collected from, and others have volunteered to take all the food and donate it to the Real Junk Food Project.
6pm (12th March) This statement was drafted while the occupation was still in force, but has just been released on facebook by Free Education Sussex, a campus campaign group which has links to the #DontDeportLuqman campaign:
“STATEMENT ON THE END OF OCCUPATION
We left Bramber House after three days of occupation of our own accord. The injunction the University took out against us, the increasing security presence and threat of bailiffs led us to believe that our safety would likely be compromised if we stayed. We believe our energy and resources can be better spent elsewhere, starting tomorrow with the demonstration outside Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre against the imprisonment of refugees, including young families. We have sent a revised list of demands to the University and we have no intention of ending the fight to stop Luqman’s deportation. We also recognise this fight as part of a wider struggle against the Home Office’s policies on our campus and elsewhere, Prevent, the exploitation and neglect of our international students, and the need to decolonise our university system. This is reflected in our demands.
We want to wholeheartedly thank everybody who donated food and other resources to us, and those who provided a strong presence at the demos on the ground. Your help and support are invaluable to this fight. We urge everybody to get involved with our upcoming actions. We have planning a meeting on Tuesday and details will follow.
Signed, the occupiers”
Meanwhile, on facebook, photographer Summer Dean has posted: “Approximately 15 Court Enforcement Officers have entered Bramber House and have removed banners from the balcony so far.
It is thought that there are no supporters of the #dontdeportluqman occupation remaining on the third floor of the building and that all participants left peacefully before the enforcement officers arrived.”
Summer Dean shared the following photo:
5pm (11th March) Protesters have just left Bramber House. Apparently 30 bailiffs appeared on the stairs. Protesters report that they had around 10 minutes to gather everything and leave. One emphasizes the fact that they tidied up after themselves, saying that his quarrel is not with the cleaners.
3.30pm or so… (11th March) A meeting is being arranged with Claire Mackie for Tuesday.
3pm (11th March) The university has managed to get a possession order on Bramber House in the court case this morning. The woman who tells me about it, a protester, says that the hearing strikes her as unfair since the court itself was changed twice and so several protesters meant to be there were unable to get in on time. It seems that only one was present, and he was unable to represent them.
Emerging from the meeting, the plan is this: the protesters will voluntarily leave tomorrow morning and head to a demonstration against detention centres at Yarls Wood Detention Centre, where they will carry #DontDeportLuqman banners and talk about Luqman’s case. They will attempt to arrange a meeting with management for early next week and will keep up pressure after the occupation ends in other ways, they say: demos, open meetings, talks… they will not, of course, notify the university that they are leaving and will simply exit the building carrying their banners and chanting loudly, much as they entered on 9th March.
2.30pm (11th March) This is the view from the occupation:
2pm (11 March) Around 15 people have managed to enter the building, including me. We entered through the same door as yesterday – protesters came and attempted to open it for us while security barred our way. We had to push past security to enter, and I saw several people being pushed and shoved violently by security guards. I personally had a guard attempt to shut the door on me as I walked in and violently push me backwards while my foot was still trapped. I saw protesters pushing to get past, but did not see anyone targeting the guards directly.
Once past, we sprinted up three flights of stairs. I arrived out of breath to people cheering us on and clapping.
We went out on the balcony to show the other demonstrators that we had made it; it was beautifully sunny and I watched from the balcony railing, looking down over the hanging protest banners as the demo walked away towards Library Square.
I am currently sitting with the protesters in a meeting. We are on chairs and on the floor in a large circle. Management have sent a series of offers of concessions, and the group are deliberatingdecide how to respond. Suddenly we are disturbed – someone has heard the march returning and suggests we go out onto the balcony to join in the chanting. Although we half expect another attempt at entry, no-one else tries.
I cannot yet reveal the statement the university made, but they have not offered to grant Luqman his MA and they have pinned blame on the Home Office.
12.45 (11 March) reports from the County Court that protesters have been told there is a possession order. One occupier says she fears that means baylifs will come to evict the occupation at any moment. It is still unclear if it is true that the possession order has been issued.
12.30 (11 March) The second rally in solidarity with the occupation will start in half an hour, and it is possible that more people will manage to storm Bramber House. There are more security gathering outside the building.
10am (11 March) The court hearing starts. Several protesters go, but will not be able to be in touch with anyone else about progress for the duration of their time in court.
I briefly go and talk to those on the balcony of Bramber House. They sound happy and say they have enough food to last until at least 1pm, when a solidarity rally will be held outside Bramber House.
Third day of occupation (11 March). I am no longer inside Bramber House but am in close contact with those still there. Today is the day of the court case.
8 am (11 March): protesters tell me that they are still in possession of the conference room. Everyone is safe and the peaceful protest continues: security did not enter the occupation during the night.
1am (11 March) Protesters inside the building are telling me they can hear drilling and think security will drill through one of the doors. Someone says ‘they may just have a drill to scare us’ and another person says that ‘they rattle the doors when people get near and they can be heard laughing about it.’ I have not been able to contact security for a comment on this.
They also say they may have lost possession of the kitchen area when attempting to extend into the rest of the third floor during the evening, but this is unclear. Messages are arriving on facebook and people sound scared.
Around 8pm…(10 March) I have left the occupation. The second day of protest closes with around 30 people in Bramber conference room, controlling that and the kitchen. They still do not have free access to the building, and say that is a key issue, bit negotiations have started and will resume tomorrow. Although there is an injunction, hopes are fairly high.
The court date is 10am tomorrow.
7pm (10 March) One protester tells me she has got an email saying Clare Makie is drafting a response and will re-arrange a other meeting. I cannot confirm this with the university but other protesters agree that it is true and they have also received emails.
7pm (10 March) The protesters have taken control of a larger section of the Conference Centre, which includes the kitchen. They now have access to food and cooking utensils. Music is now on and people are dancing and celebrating.
6:30pm (10 March) The negotiators came back from the door having discovered that Claire Mackie’s meeting was going to be in Jubilee and that the protesters would have to agree not to return to Bramber House afterwards. After a meeting the protesters have just agreed that management need to be prepared to meet them without jeopardising their protest in order to agree anything.
5.30 (10 March) I have just learnt that at around 1 o’clock the university management reached out to protesters. Negotiations over how to meet will start soon.
10 to 5 (10 March) A notice has just been received that an injunction is being taken against the occupation.
Photo by Cosmo Lo:
4 o’clock (10 March). Russia Today reporters are on their way, we have been told. This will be the first TV report about the occupation. The protesters are excited and will appear in full black bloc in order to emphasize the collective nature of the movement, as well as obviously protecting anonymity from both the police and the university.
After 3…(10 March) More food donated by people on the outside. Several protesters have just done an interview with URF and were heard discussing how positive they felt the reaction has been to the occupation. One said: ‘people have been lovely and taken such great care of us. I think it shows the wide support base our campaign has on campus.’
2 o’clock (10 March). The first meeting with new occupants has ended and almost everyone has filed out onto the balcony. They are standing shoulder to shoulder, and in some places two rows deep. They are chanting ‘Luqman here to stay, let’s deport Teresa May!’ There are still a number of people outside supporting them. Fliars which were handed out before are strewn over the ground, and some Christmas crackers which several protesters threw down to the crowd an hour ago.
(10 March) Close to one o’clock the support demonstration assembled. I counted around 80 people.
The protest as seen from the balcony when people were still assembling:
Inside, the protesters had prepared a route to get more people in. They played loud, rousing music and stood on the balcony leading the crown in a chant until the signal was given. Then, the crowd attempted to enter the building. Between 20 and 30 people managed to gain access, although a number were unable to pass and there is footage which shows extreme resistance from security. (This to follow soon when faces have been pixelated by the person who filmed it. Credit: Cosmo Lo)
20 hours into occupation (10 March), we are tired but not hungry. We ate porridge for breakfast kindly donated by a fellow student who supports the occupation and the protesters remain in fairly high spirits awaiting the demonstration at 1pm. Last night, friends and supporters brought blankets, food, and even communal tobacco – which was greeted with excitement! The protesters currently hold a conference room and a little side room off it, and made beds in there.
What does it look like inside the occupation?
On the 9 March at 2pm students on a demonstration to show support for recent MA student Luqman Onikosi stormed Bramber house. They are currently in hour 20 of the occupation and I, the Badger’s News Editor, will be keeping a live feed. On Monday you will also be able to read our long-form article in the print edition.
The student protesters are a loose group of friends of Luqman Onikosi and concerned people who heard about his case and wanted to join the campaign #DontDeportLuqman. This newspaper recently reported on it, and full details of his case can be found in the article I wrote at the time: http://thebadgeronline.com/campaign-to-save-sussex-student-from-deportation/
The group have issued the following demands:
- Award Luqman his MA and publicly state their opposition to Luqman’s deportation.
- End collaboration with the Home Office, including legally and politically challenging Prevent and International Student Licensing
- Covert the 50 fee scholarships for refugees into full scholarships including living support.
- Conduct an immediate review of curriculum with the Sussex school of Global Studies Initiative: Decolonizing Education: Towards Academic Freedom In Pluriversality (DETAFIP).
The Home Office issued The Badger with the following statement at the time of writing the above article: “All cases are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. Human rights claims on medical grounds are always considered in line with Article 3 of ECHR.”
The University issued the following statement yesterday when the press approached them about the occupation: “We understand the group of students are supporters of Mr Onikosi, a former student of the university. The students are currently based in a conference room in one of our buildings. We are, and have always been, very sorry to know of Mr Onikisi’s illness. The status of Mr Onikosi’s visa is a directive from the Home Office and the university is not able to influence this decision.”
Freya Marshall Payne