At 9AM this morning, the students occupying the Freedom Theatre were greeted by Vice Chancellor John Brookes and the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Ann Holmes. Brookes entered the occupied lecture theatre with a smile on his face and helped himself to a cup of our tea. We began to film the meeting, but Brookes demanded that we could only film if he was also permitted to film each and every one of us and record our names. We refused. Brookes, clearly aware that the occupying students were from Manchester University and Salford University as well as Man Met, responded that he would have been "happy" with the occupation going ahead and "willing to support our objectives" if only we were comprised solely of Man Met students. This is clearly a lie, designed to make our Vice Chancellor look gracious and understanding, without obliging him to look at our demands or speak with us honestly.
Brookes argued that the occupation had been "Socialist Worker gatecrashed"; this is an attempt to undermine our protest, which has been supported by a wide range of groups and plenty of non-aligned students, as well as staff members and prominent trade unionists from UCU and UNISON.
One thing that came across from the meeting, was that Brookes, was clearly on the defense, claiming that we were not a peaceful demonstration, unlike the "other occupations" that have been taking place across the country. He would have no "difficulty with students of this university [Man Met] having a friendly occupation and making a political statement". We doubt this immensely.
This is what the occupiers of the Freedom Theatre have to say in response to Vice Chancellor Brookes: university students from across Greater Manchester have joined with the students of Manchester Metropolitan, to stand together in support of their struggle and in solidarity with the people of Gaza. The purpose of an occupation is not to accept half-baked terms proposed by a Vice Chancellor unwilling to listen. We will not give in and nor will we allow Manchester Met students to be victimised for their role in the occupation. This is our space. We determine the rules, who may enter and what they may do. John Brookes must be aware that the students from other occupations, LSE and Oxford for instance, have won their demands. We shall do the same.