Students play dead at protest against ‘military’ employers

Police had to help University security staff remove students holding a “die-in” protest against defence contractor Thales at the University Careers Fair on Wednesday March 30.

The protest, organised by Sheffield Occupation, saw students cover themselves in fake blood, blockade the Thales stall, and remove the company’s advertisements.

The protest was staged to highlight Thales’ involvement in the supplement of arms to countries worldwide, including Saudi Arabia and Libya

Students from University society SPEAK, who campaign against issues of global injustice, gave out leaflets opposing the University’s links with companies involved in the arms trade.

A Sheffield Occupation spokesperson said: “Over the past 10 years, the University has accepted over £41million in research contracts from military projects.  It is horrific that our University welcomes such companies with open arms.”

Students’ Union Education Officer Joe Oliver said: “We have a policy against dealings with arms companies and we regularly lobby the University on this issue.  Recently the University, with the Students’ Union’s encouragement, has divested itself of shares in arms companies which I hope is an encouraging sign of policy moving in an ethical direction.”

Thales UK is an electronics company that produces equipment for aerospace, defence and security markets.  It maintains 95 per cent of Network Rail’s telecommunications infrastructure and is responsible for securing 90 per cent of all UK credit card transactions.

A spokesperson from the University of Sheffield said: “The University supports the democratic process and the right of students to express their views within the law.  In the past, students have handed out leaflets outside the Octagon during recruitment fairs, and we are happy to allow this form of peaceful demonstration by students.

“The University is aware of the protest activity that took place, however activities were dealt with by University security staff and police officers and disruption was limited.”

A University student at the protest said: “The people demonstrating today were of one group, or rather various unrelated groups of students acting from different directions, but with the same deep concern at heart.

“Why does the University, despite being signed up to an ethical investments trust which means they do not invest in arms companies, still allow the very same companies into the university to recruit their graduates?

“I am glad that students were there today to provide information to those present in a friendly and impacting manner.”

The University spokesperson said: “The University has research links with many different organisations, including Thales Group.

“These industrial partnerships also bring major benefit to students, resulting from these companies sharing their expertise through placements, industrial lectures and case studies.

“We will continue to develop our partnership with companies such as Thales in order to position the University of Sheffield as a research-led university in the global environment.”


One Response to “Students play dead at protest against ‘military’ employers”

  1. Phil Trzcinski

    I think the students at the fair who weren’t protesting were more than capable of deciding for themselves whether or not to listen to the people from Thales, and whether to let themselves be recruited. I would think that protests like this put off other employers at such events, which will harm the university and the prospects of students wanting to work for said employers.

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