Dec. 2, 2014:
- Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) attempt to occupy the upper floor of the Rootes Building in preparation for a nation-wide day of action called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC). The attempt fails after a member of Warwick catering staff forced their way into the occupied space and refused to leave.
Dec. 3 (precise times are within a 5-10 minute window):
- WFFE call for a rally at the Koan at 3:00PM, later moved to 3:30PM to avoid clashing with an exodus of children from the Arts Centre. The rally is to pressure the University administration to publically advocate free education and reject the Russell Group’s £16K fees lobbying effort.
- 3:30-4:00PM: The rally commences with around 30-35 students present, speeches made, and a banner dropped from the roof of the Arts Centre.
- 4:00PM: A collective decision is made to stage a non-disruptive sit-in in the foyer of Senate House, a historic focal point for occupations and protests. A group of four approach the entrance, and tussle with security as they attempt to enter. This is the moment Paul Wyld, an external security guard with the company Atlas, claims he was assaulted by Alastair Robinson. None of the protesters witnessed this. Seven more protesters enter the building and being sitting and chanting. The rest of the group are blocked from entering by security.
- 4:05PM: After initially resisting, Head of Security, Mark Kennell, chooses to open up Senate House to the rest of the protesters. Approximately 15 more activists enter the building, chant, and then arrange seats in a circle to engage in a discussion about free education.
- 4:10PM: Police are called by Mark Kennell after Paul Wyld reports that he wishes to take further action over the alleged assault. Kennell requests a “discrete, low-key approach”.
- 4:40PM: Six police officers, two of them sergeants, arrive in three police cars, lights flashing. Kennell meets them on the lawn outside Senate House, and discourages them from immediately entering since their current approach would make it “go off like a bottle of pop”. During this time, Warwick Security guard Ian Hopkins tells the protesters inside that the police are there for “an unrelated incident”.
- Mark Kennell re-enters Senate House, and attempts to talk to Miguel Costa Matos about the police presence. Callum Cant, seeing this as an attempt to isolate more moderate members of the group, intervenes and tells Miguel he doesn’t have to talk to anyone alone. Mark Kennell immediately leaves Senate House and informs the police that his attempts to communicate have been unsuccessful. This is the only attempt made during the whole event to talk with the protesters about the police presence.
- 4:45PM: The police enter Senate House. The sit-in ends and the protesters stand up and chant at the police. The main group of students, next to the Post Graduate (PG) Hub, link arms and form a circle. A smaller group, further inside the foyer, stand back. Most, perhaps all, are unaware of why the police are there.
- PC Whitehead and PC Forth, without warning, advance into the rear end of the main crowd, attempting to arrest or question Alistair. Atlas and Warwick Security move into the crowd to assist the police, immediately grabbing Callum Cant and removing him from the building. The other officers join shortly. Alistair and Daniel Dawson grab onto one another near the centre of the crowd, and PC Whitehead attempts to arrest Alistair. During this tussle a call for backup is made. PC Whitehead activates his emergency distress button on his radio for the second time in his career, and a request is made for “all free units to attend as a matter of urgency”. Police Sergeant Johanna Comer receives this call off campus and activates an emergency response, including at least 2 police vans, dogs and riots shields. Eventually, Whitehead pulls Daniel and Alistair into the PG Hub. Once they are on the floor, PC Forth points a Taser at Alistair, and PC Simpson enters behind, pointing a Taser at Daniel. Daniel leaves the PG Hub and Alastair is arrested.
- During this time, in the foyer, PC Lloyd has immediately taken out his CS canister, and begins aggressively grabbing protesters. He grabs Lorenzo Feltrin by the neck and throws him further into the foyer. He then returns to the crowd and, unprovoked, grabs Hope Worsdale by her camera case and pulls her towards him. Lawrence Green steps towards Hope and after a brief standoff with PC Lloyd is sprayed directly in his eyes with CS gas. The crowd grows more agitated and distressed.
- Luke Dukinfield heads towards the PG Hub in response to the cries of Alistair, who is currently subdued and threatened with a Taser. Luke is thrown to the floor by Warwick Security Officer Peter Jones. At this point, PC Horton is activating and arcing his Taser towards the crowd.
- PC Simpson leaves the PG Hub and starts to arrest Daniel Dawson for obstruction. Luke heads towards Daniel protectively, and is grabbed and thrown to the ground by PC Lloyd. Anna Rivers and Lorenzo Feltrin crouch down to see if Luke is okay. PC Lloyd immediately deploys CS gas from the side towards Lorenzo’s eyes, circumventing his glasses. Anna also gets hit by the spray. It is possible that PC Lloyd also sprays a third time in the general direction of the crowd. Only at this point does PC Lloyd warn the protesters to “back off or you will get CS’ed”.
- Luke is arrested by PC Horton and PC Forth. Daniel, Luke and Alistair are removed from the building. The remaining few protesters chant at the police and security before leaving. The rest of the police have arrived, including vans. Police dogs are made visible, and there is a suggestion that the police might arrest Callum until he is protected by fellow activists.
- 4:55PM: Some WFFE members head to the Student’s Union HQ building opposite Senate House and start a media room, where they contact journalists and put videos up online. They continue this for several hours. Others continue to question the police and inform onlookers about what just happened.
- Luke Dukinfield, Daniel Dawson and Alastair Robinson will later be charged under section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986. Alastair will also be charged with assault, and Daniel with obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty.
- 1:00PM: Nigel Thrift, Vice Chancellor, releases his first statement on the events.
- 3:30PM: A ‘Cops off Campus’ demo that was called by WFFE the night before commences. Around 1000 students from across the country are present. Several staff members also attend.
- 3:30-4:45PM: Speeches and chanting continue until nightfall. Hattie Craig, Vice President of Education at the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students, calls on the protesters to occupy in response to the police violence.
- 4:45PM: The crowd move en masse to the rear end of Senate House, which has been closed for the rally. The rear doors are forced open, and members of the crowd begin to enter. When they meet several police officers and security guards inside, they retreat and call for the crowd to move to the Rootes Building.
- 4:50-4:55PM: Approximately 200 students storm the Rootes Building, heading for the upper floor, where the attempted occupation took place on Dec. 2. The same catering staff member who scuppered that occupation attempts to stop the initial influx of students, but soon backs down when faced with overwhelming numbers of protesters. The University attempts to close off the building, leaving perhaps 200 outside the building. After several hours, demands are drafted by those present, with a deadline for the University’s response of Jan. 6, 2015. Many leave the occupation, but some sleep overnight.
- 1:30AM: The Academic Registrar, Michael Glover, and Head of Security, Mark Kennell, deliver an oral message to the remaining occupiers demanding that they abdicate the building. They refuse.
- 2:00PM: A solidarity demo of perhaps 50 people is held outside the occupation.
- 4:00PM: Michael Glover presents a formal letter claiming the occupiers are contravening University regulations.
- The occupation is expanded to include further spaces in upper floor Rootes.
- Vice Chancellor Nigel Thrift releases his second, longer statement on the events. WFFE release their response.
- The occupiers are served an injunction and possession order by the University. See the full injunction below.
- Morning: The occupation of upper floor Rootes Building ends.
- 2:00PM: Possession and Injunction Hearing at Birmingham Court Registry. The occupiers don’t provide a defence, to avoid being hit with legal costs by the University.
Jan. 12, 2015
- Luke Dukinfield, Alastair Robinson, and Daniel Dawson, who were arrested on Dec. 3, 2014, have their bail conditions extended.
- The All Student Meeting motion ‘No Confidence in Nigel Thrift’ is passed through the Students’ Union. Another motion calling for a code of conduct for Warwick Security also passes. WFFE stage a brief sit-in out Nigel Thrift’s office.
- Summit on Protest held by the Centre for Human Rights in Practice. Nigel Thrift describes chanting protesters as “yobs” whilst being recorded.
- The trial of the ‘Warwick 3’ commences.
- Daniel Dawson’s charges are dropped on a technicality.
- Alastair Robinson is found guilty of assaulting Paul Wyld, and of violating Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986. Luke Dukinfield is found guilty under one count of violating Section 4, and cleared of another count.
- Luke Dukinfield is asked by a West Midlands Police Officer to inform on members of the political groups they’re involved with.
Centre for Human Rights in Practice
The survey, summit recording, and final report are available here.
Our University! - Protest Documentary
Cops off Campus Protest Video
Warwick TV Coverage: Cops off Campus Demo
Warwick for Free Education blog: https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/
Nigel Thrift's Statements:
"Dear Students and Staff of the University
The events from Wednesday of last week, and broadcast so publicly in the media, have been very difficult for our community. We have witnessed scenes and actions that no one will have wanted to see on our campus. For some it will be hard to understand how this happened or was allowed to happen. For those students involved in the protest, or staff who were working adjacent to it, the events will no doubt have been frightening.
Warwick has a long history of facilitating peaceful protest on the campus where close co-operation between those protesting and University colleagues enables us to ensure that views are aired, arguments are made, but also ensure that the day to day experience of those on the campus is able to continue. Our commitment to continue to facilitate peaceful demonstrations and protests in the future remains.
Everyone expected the planned protests for last week to be peaceful and arrangements were put in place on that basis. I have no doubt that the vast majority of individuals involved planned to conduct themselves peacefully and went on to do so. It is clear, however, that a very small number of individuals were willing to use non-peaceful means as part of these protests, some of whom were not Warwick students. Where this led to a person allegedly being assaulted in the course of fulfilling their duties, the University had no choice but to act. We have had it confirmed that the individual who is alleged to have conducted this assault is not a member of the University of Warwick community. Where an alleged crime takes place on the campus it is important that it is investigated immediately or the ability to identify those involved and either clear their name or take appropriate action is seriously hindered. This is particularly the case when the allegation is against someone who is not a member of the Warwick community where we would have no jurisdiction to investigate or act ourselves.
There are some that believe that the allegation of assault is without basis. I can confirm that the allegation is indeed real and based on a genuine complaint regarding someone who was injured in the conduct of their duties. The external legal process will determine in due course whether the evidence is sufficient for further action to be taken.
Fortunately, acts of intimidation, violence or criminal damage are rare at Warwick. A number of alleged such incidents happened last week.
On the first attempt to enter the top floor of the Rootes Social Building on Tuesday evening a male and a female member of CCSG staff, who were packing up after a student event, allegedly found themselves confronted by 20-25 individuals, with faces masked, in a darkened room, who refused to speak and identify why they were there and were actively locking and barricading themselves in.
At the end of an otherwise peaceful protest on Thursday, approximately £6000 worth of criminal damage was caused by a very small number of masked protesters as they broke into the locked doors at the back of Senate House.
Finally, a group of individuals seeking entry to the floor where the occupation in Rootes Social Building was taking place on Thursday evening allegedly pushed into a member of Warwick Conferences staff with such force it resulted in an injury.
Referring to these incidents at this point is not to question the peaceful values of the majority of those involved. It is to state clearly that there were a small number of people involved who did not pursue protest through peaceful means. These will be investigated thoroughly. Similarly, if any students engaged in the protest have evidence of staff acting inappropriately these will also be investigated thoroughly.
The peaceful intentions of the majority of members of the Warwick community engaging in last week’s protests have been affected by the actions of small number of individuals, including some who were external to the University. Where acts of intimidation, violence or criminal damage do occur we will, indeed we must, act. There is no place for either of these things on our campus or in our community. They have no role to play in the conduct of peaceful protest and are in no way a necessary aspect of such protests. In due course, and when it is legally permissible to do so, we will disclose the information and evidence that we have regarding the alleged assault and the criminal damage to the rear of Senate House.
At no point did the University call the Police to campus because of the protest or to support us in the management of the arrangements for the protest. It was linked solely to an allegation of assault. The Police indicated on arrival that if we were able to identify the individual they would have taken his details and left the matter at that. We were not able to secure that information. In their view they were left no choice but to attend the building in person. They had received a report that an alleged assault had been committed and the individual alleged to have committed the assault was still in the building.
I was not present in the immediate vicinity of these incidents and neither were the vast majority of people who have commented on them. I welcome the commitment on the part of the Coventry Police Commander that if any individual involved in the incident believes that the actions of any of the officers fell below the standard of acceptable professional conduct that such matters will be investigated fully. The Registrar has also asked an independent member of our University Council to review the outcomes of any specific complaints that are raised by students or staff regarding the actions of members of the University in these events.
Where unlawful occupations take place we will assess their impact on the overall operation of the University and the impact on its community and act in a measured way. We demonstrated this in our response to the protestors who engaged in an unlawful occupation on Thursday night and remain in occupation on the top floor of the Rootes Social Building. Where that disruption becomes significant and prolonged, or where any unlawful acts have taken place such as criminal damage, physical or aggressive abuse towards individuals we will pursue normal legal process to remove the protesters and return the facilities that they have occupied to normal usage.
Let me end where I began. I know many student and staff members of our community have been distressed by the events of the past week and it is important that we all take the time to fully understand the facts before we draw conclusions on the actions that have been taken. I do recognise however that the visible scenes witnessed last week will have been distressing for those who watched them and even more so for those involved. Details of the support structures within the University are provided below and anyone from within the University affected by the events of last week is encouraged to make contact with them.
The relationship between members of the University community and the Police has been overwhelmingly positive with them helping us to reduce all types of crime on the campus, particularly the theft of personal property. Recent events will have raised questions in the minds of some individuals on this relationship in the future and I hope that the outcome of any reviews of this incident will help ensure that this relationship remains positive and constructive.
Warwick is a place where challenging ideas are nurtured and where rigorous intellectual debate is an integral part of life. There are multiple formal and informal fora and bodies across the University through which students and staff views can be voiced. Where individuals want to raise those views through demonstrations and protests, and to do so on a peaceful basis, we will continue to facilitate that in the future as we have in the past. We cannot, indeed we must not, accept situations where this translates into acts of intimidation, criminal damage or violence. To do so will erode the fundamental safety and security of the environment in which any challenging ideas can be developed, discussed and communicated.
Professor Nigel Thrift"
Warwick SU Statements:
"*** WARWICK SU PRELIMINARY STATEMENT REGARDING POLICE ACTIONS AT FREE EDUCATION PROTEST (3rd December) ***
This afternoon, a group were demonstrating for Free Education and entered the lobby of Senate House. The police arrived and an altercation took place, the full facts of which we are still in the process of establishing. Three people were arrested. From the footage we have seen of this incident, we absolutely believe that disproportionate force was used against protesters. We stand in solidarity with the Warwick students who were unnecessarily harmed in this action. The Sabbatical Team will be attending the peaceful demonstration happening on Thursday at 3.30pm. We will also update students further with a full statement tomorrow"
Full Statment, Dec. 4
"Warwick Students’ Union absolutely condemns the disproportionate use of force by Police on protestors at yesterday’s Free Education demonstration. While the full facts surrounding the incidents are still being established, the use of CS spray, excessive physical force and the threat of tasering is unprecedented on our campus, and the footage captured by students in attendance last night is deeply disturbing. Our current understanding of the timeline leading up to the incident is that police officers were called following an allegation of assault on a member of Campus Security during the initial entry into Senate House. Once the officers arrived, the situation escalated, leading to the arrest of 3 members of the group (one on suspicion of assault and two for obstructing police) who have subsequently been bailed. CCTV footage is currently being consulted by local police to ascertain the exact sequence of events. Once again, we stand in solidarity with students who were unnecessarily harmed in this action, and our primary concern is obviously with the welfare of those who were directly affected by yesterday’s events. Students who were in attendance last night are urged to contact the SU’s Advice Centre for support and further information regarding formal complaints procedures, while the University’s Residential Life team is also offering pastoral care where relevant for those who live on campus. The role of debate, discussion and dissent are a key part of a democratic society, and students have the right to protest both within the University community and beyond. We are appalled by the severity of the Police’s actions last night and, as a matter of the highest urgency, the Sabbatical Officer team have been in constant contact this morning with members of the University’s Senior Management team to demand clarification and answers on behalf of the student body. A further demonstration is planned outside Senate House at 3:30pm today, at which Sabbatical Officers will be in attendance. This is intended as a peaceful rally to protest against last night’s actions, and we therefore urge all those attending to exercise good judgement, caution and restraint when participating in what are understandably emotional circumstances for many. Student safety and welfare remains our highest priority, and we echo the hopes of many that this demonstration passes without further incident."