Yesterday (February 14th) Demilitarise Lancaster took over Lancaster University’s Charles Carter building. All lectures and seminars due to take place within the building have been rearranged.
Last night activists from the Demilitarise Lancaster group started an indefinite occupation of the Management School building. The group hope that the action will put pressure on the university to resolve their dispute with the University and College Union (UCU), and end their relationship with arms manufacturer, BAE Systems.
This occupation follows the group’s three-day take over of Lancaster University’s Margaret Fell building last December. Several students occupied the building, only leaving when term ended, while leaving their banners and posters up, to be taken down by porters following their departure.
Of the current occupation, a Demilitarise Lancaster spokesperson said:
We are fighting for a better university, a better future. This includes the UCU’s struggle and the fight against the arms trade.Demilitarise Lancaster spokesperson
In January 2023, the UCU announced an escalation of up to 18 days of strike action in their bid to pressure employers to give university staff a fair pay rise and reverse the cuts that see the average member lose up to 35% of their average retirement income. Alongside ending the University’s relationship with arms trader, BAE Systems, these are the demands Demilitarise Lancaster want the University to meet.
In a statement, Demilitarise Lancaster said: “Lancaster University has failed to support staff and students throughout the cost of living crisis.”
Staff are working under immense pressure, working long hours and, for some, in unstable short-term contracts.Demilitarise Lancaster spokesperson
“We have been forced to take this disruptive direct action, to show University Management that enough is enough, and that we will no longer accept being treated as a business opportunity.”
In response to Demilitarise Lancaster’s occupation, Lancaster University have cut all electricity to the building. The group were told that if they did not leave soon, the emergency lighting will go out.
In a statement, the university said: “We fully support the right to free speech on campus and our University has an open and transparent working culture where groups and individuals are free to express their views.
We remain open to debate and dialogue and students have representation in the University’s governance structures through the Students Union.Lancaster University statement
“As part of our commitment to engagement, our graduates’ employment, and to our regional economy, the University works with an increasingly diverse range of partners and businesses.
Our work with BAE Systems underpins a range of activities, including research into sustainable technologies, and deepens our engagement with regional business, enhancing business growth and opportunity.
“We also support our academics’ freedom to identify and associate with legitimate organisations as part of their research activity and for our students to make their own informed choices about where they work.
The university has processes to enable peaceful protests but will prioritise safety and the rights of students and staff to go about their normal business on campus without restriction.
However, it is clear from the protests, than some students are not happy with the involvement the University has with BAE systems, as the partnership remains in place, students can likely expect to see further posters, banners, and protest action from Demilitarise Lancaster.