London: Lewisham and Southwark College occupied, evicted

On Sunday 19 July, in the middle of the night and after much planning, a group of around 15 members of the Southwark and Lewisham community including LESOCO (Lewisham and Southwark College) students, occupied the Camberwell campus of LESOCO to resist its closure. They locked the gates and barred the doors, claiming the space for the community and wrenching it from the claws of managers, bureaucrats and the market. The plan was to use the campus for community education and organising and to stop management from clearing the building out by the end of the month. They damaged nothing. They wanted the building kept for further education.

The cops arrived when the alarms went off and the occupiers were told that they could stay as it was a ‘legitimate protest’. However, in the morning when security arrived they attempted to enter the occupied building by jumping over the wall and climbing through a window. This failed due to hasty barricading of a door. That’s when cops and management arrived at the site. A callout was made to supporters to come down and show solidarity and people began arriving in dribs and drabs.

The occupiers were unaware that there was due to be (ironically) a security guards training class at the site that day, (as this class was organised by the job centre not the college they were not aware it was happening.) The tutor of this course said that the class could be re-arranged, and there were 3 other empty LESOCO campuses to use. However, management refused to rearrange this class, so the occupiers offered to share part of a building with them. Management again refused and used this as a pretext for a heavy handed police response. The police now claimed that this was aggravated trespass and bought TSG and dog units to the site, threatening everyone inside with arrest if they did not leave in one hour. The police cut through the locks on the gates and the occupiers decided to leave by jumping over the back fence, rather than being dragged out and into custody by TSG.

The staff have been on strike, the students and community have protested and campaigned, yet management, the councils and the governors have not listened. Direct action became not an option but a necessity. Yet still, even with an occupied campus they would not listen and rather than negotiating with students, staff and members of the community, the management of Lewisham and Southwark College decided to rely on police violence to repress the demands to protect further education in our borough.