In an emergency, break glass: Occupy Sussex and the bigger picture

Don't focus on one broken door, suggests Sussex student Jessie Thompson. Concentrate instead on the jobs at stake and an uncaring management

A door was smashed on the University of Sussex campus on Monday.

In other news, over 1,000 people gathered in the university’s Library Square for a large demonstration to outsource 235 support service jobs. Students from across the country travelled the distance in order to stand side by side with students, staff and academics at Sussex. All wore a small yellow square on their coats to symbolise their solidarity with the campaign, and children played on the yellow swings that hung from the trees.

A ‘Pop Up Union’ was launched to represent the workers under threat, and all cafes on campus  were picketed, occupied and shut down in a direct hit to management revenue and as a warning to possible private providers. ULU President Michael Chessum declared: “We have found a voice here today that will not die.”

Now, what was that you mentioned about a broken door?

This national demonstration was only able to occur due to the hard work of the Sussex Against Privatisation campaign group, many of whom have also been occupying the Bramber House conference centre for almost seven weeks. The occupation itself has seen a space previously used as a revenue generator for the university now reclaimed as a productive, creative and inclusive space – it is now a home to academic lectures, comedy nights and drama workshops.

Of course, this did not happen overnight. The campaign began almost a year ago, and only thanks to constant persistence and patience has it been able to grow in strength and size to such an extent that an Early Day Motion in Parliament has now been signed by 25 MPs.

In an increasingly unrepresentative political system, in which we all seem to be at the mercy of rich oligarchs, attempts to reclaim a voice appear to be very much a part of the national mood. This seems to be the reason the Sussex University management employed the predictable tactic of demonising the student protestors as much as possible.

Clearly unaware that it’s not really the style of anarchy to form an orderly queue behind a bar, on police advice they banned the sale of alcohol on campus until 5pm. Registrar John Duffy emailed staff to let them know they could work from home if they felt scared, and the windows to Sussex House were barricaded. The attempts by management to portray this movement as a tiny bunch of yobbish, fringe nutters who just want to cause trouble might be effective, but this gross misrepresentation betrays one vital thing: they are scared. The fact that the Sussex occupation has conducted itself with consideration and dignity throughout its seven weeks gives them little reason to use heavy handed force, which in turn, makes them incredibly difficult to silence.

For this reason, we must not allow ‘the breaking of one glass door’ to mutate into ‘the thuggish smashing of the whole of Sussex House’. Do people really think that the Sussex occupation have slogged their guts out for seven weeks in order to lose their heads and start breaking things? Nevertheless, some students across campus have become depressingly hostile to the campaign. Complaints range from demented histrionics about the despicable disruption to education to plain frustration at the inability to buy a sandwich.

I must express an exasperated plea for my fellow students to look at the bigger picture: the cancelling of one seminar is inconvenient, and being a bit peckish is a pain, but 235 people losing their job security and pensions is rather more troublesome.

Whilst the disproportionate focus on one small act of minor vandalism is initially slightly dispiriting, it would be a disservice to the hard work of this movement to become depressed by it. The incredible strength and energy that has characterized the Occupy Sussex movement so far suggests it will no doubt find further reserves within itself to overcome these attempts to tarnish the cause.

It must, if larger grassroots movements like the People’s Assembly are to be a success. Occupy Sussex are not a group of people in black clothes and bandanas with a will to smash – they are selfless, pioneering activists who are unfazed by a tyrannical management that threatens helpless individuals. It is a movement that has radicalised me – if hoping for a better future and caring for fellow human beings is radical, then I am happy to be.

Their unabashed persistence and belief in their cause is where they find their power, and knowing this, the university has today served the occupation an injunction that aims to evict them from Bramber House, as well as banning all further protest until September, an infringement upon a fundamental human right. We must resist the politics of overreaction; they’re more scared of us than we are of them.

Jessie is an English Literature student and writer based in Brighton. She blogs at www.girlignited.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter here: @jessiecath

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
music

News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

ICT Teacher for Maternity cover

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job * This is a new post...

**ESOL**

£60 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job:* The Tutor will prepar...

KS1 & KS2 Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: KS1 & KS2 Primary Teacher Jobs in ...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album