The following is a report from one of the Bristol AFed members at UWE, originally written at the end of November:
The University of the West of England (UWE) goes to great lengths to profit from death. They have close links to the MOD base situated next to it, working together in designing and sponsoring new technologies for use in weapons. Over the last couple of weeks staff, students and local activists have been raising awareness of an Arms Fair taking place on campus, or as the university called it “a procurement of defence projects conference”.
On the eve of the arms fair several dozen students marched through campus to the building holding the arms fair. They were able to disrupt people from setting up exhibitions by shutting the main doors and blocking the others. Many flustered business men dropped their precious supplies, or quickly rushed back out the car-park. Despite it being the coldest night of the year so far they managed to disrupt the setting up for several hours.
At 8am on the morning of the Arms Fair, even more students and other anti arms trade activists arrived. Angry with the idea of the conference still going ahead, Quickly they decided to stop cars coming into the university grounds. People holding banners took up position on the road, blocking the entrance, which caused tailbacks all the way into the centre!
The one flustered cop, who apparently hadn’t been expecting anything, tried pushing people off the road. As he was feeling brave he came up behind the smallest person on the demo and pushed them in the back. When the protester put their arms up to balance themselves, and refused to budge an inch the copper flipped and decided that the protester had assaulted him. 20 people jumped to their comrades defence, causing a scuffle sending the rozzer’s hat flying and knocked the radio out of his hand when he tried to call for back up. The 5 minute tug of war held up the traffic for longer and meant more people joined in on blocking the road. Shortly afterwards the gates were shut, with protesters sitting on top.
The protest was a massive success with over 60 people opposing the Arms fair… oops “defence project procurement conference”. The conference was delayed by 4 hours, with many displays and attendees failing to arrive at all. Peering through the glass windows the building looked like a ghost town, few stalls had been set up, and those few suits inside were just wandering about aimlessly. A small group of activists managed to get inside the conference building, making lots of noise, staging a die in and disrupting those few talks that were still taking place. A Video of that action was posted onto facebook.
At this point the Vice Chancellor Steve ‘its not an arms fair’ West decided to harass the students that pay his £250,000 pay packet by calling in scores of riot police.
Students were harassed everywhere they went with police ‘evidence gathers’ following them with cameras and making threats. By 1pm, about 20 riot vans had arrived , and the students decided to call it a day, agreeing that their aim of effectively disrupting the Arms Fair had been achieved..
During the Vice Chancellors time at the Uni, staff pay has been cut, jobs lost, modules, courses and contact time with lecturers reduced, all whilst the Uni has continued to turn a massive profit. There is plenty of money for huge conference buildings that benefit businesses more than students , shiny new stadiums and arms research projects. Everyone is fucked off that the top management at the university has become cosy with the MOD, without even asking the staff and students what they think.
Meanwhile Vice Chancellor Steve West, creams off the top, enjoying a pay rise and bonuses, along with his own on site mansion “cottage” including a gym and walled garden. UWE is just one example of how universities are being turned from institutions of learning into just another business. They no longer focus on education but instead on making money for those at the top. This weeks protest has shown that we are not ready to give up and roll over just yet!