Student pressure forces University of Sheffield to pull protest ban

An injunction banning protests on the University of Sheffield has been withdrawn following student outcry.

The injunction was removed after Students’ Union Officers pressured the Vice-Chancellor Keith Burnett with concerns from students that they would not be able to protest legally.

Student groups had voiced opposition to the injunction that said they could not protest in University buildings unless they had prior permission to do so from the University.

The court granted a possession order allowing bailiffs to remove any protesters from occupying University buildings rather than an outright ban on protests.

Students’ Union Officers said they were pleased that the injunction which “restricted protests” has been removed.

“Many Students’ Union societies and committees have contacted us in the last 24 hours to express their fear that they would not be able to hold future protests, gather petitions or even run awareness raising campaigns without fear of being prosecuted.

“Whilst we recognise the original aim of the University was to limit occupations, the wording of the initial injunction and subsequent copies had left students fearing that their right to protest was being infringed,” said a statement on their website.

Initially the injunction was granted on Friday December 2 following student protesters occupying a lecture theatre in the Arts Tower.

It was amended on Monday following representations made to the court by those occupying the building who feared all protests had been banned.

The court amended the injunction to state the University will not “unreasonably” withhold permission to protest in any of the buildings owned by the University.

The occupation, which began on November 30, ended last night when the protesters left the building fearing being in contempt of court after being served with the new injunction.

Miss Ward, representing the University of Sheffield, said the University “has no intention to interfere with other forms of protest other than occupation.”

The possession order granted by the court means bailiffs could have forcibly removed students who were occupying lecture theatres.

Judge Robinson sitting as a High Court Judge at Sheffield County Court said there would be a “foreseeable risk” that if the possession order was not granted protesters would occupy another lecture theatre or building.

The University said they are pleased the occupation is over and are aiming to get lectures back to normal in the Arts Tower as soon as possible.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: “The University took on board the concerns of representatives from the Students’ Union regarding the wording in the injunction application which was interpreted as preventing protests across the whole of campus unless permission was granted by the University.

“The University of Sheffield fully supports freedom of speech and the right of students to express their views peacefully and within the law and certainly would not wish in any way to constrain legitimate debate, discussion and protest which does not hamper the educational activities of other students and staff.”

 

 

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