Student activists have criticised UEA’s attitude to protest after security services broke up a demonstration against oil companies last month.
The protest, which took place outside of Careers Central on Friday October 24th, was organised by Fossil Free UEA and objected to a Career Central seminar held that day on finding work in the oil industry.
Eliza Horton, who was among the protesters, told Concrete that: “UEA, in spite of being a leader in the study of climate change, has continued to work with the companies that cause it, in this case by encouraging people to work in the oil industry through Career Central”. A banner was hung over the Street and leaflets were being handed out. The leaflets criticised the fact that UEA had invited oil companies onto campus, and advertised a talk happening that evening, part of the Dirty Coal Tour which criticises the activities of BHP Billiton in which UEA has invested £37,580.
15 minutes into the demo, three members of UEA security arrived and told the protesters to move along, claiming – after a query from an activist – that students need to get permission six weeks in advance in order to hold protests. However, a UEA spokesperson told Concrete that: “Students do not have to seek permission for protest through the event permissions process”. While the spokesperson did encourage students to notify the university, they said that students are not prohibited from distributing protest-related flyers.
Horton also told Concrete that when the protest disbanded, security followed the protesters to the area above the street and then into Union House, where the protesters tried to distribute leaflets, which in Union House does not typically require permission. Security then confiscated the leaflets, and asked the students for their plans for the rest of the day. Horton and fellow protester Claire Reiderman were followed by security into Campus Kitchen after leaving Union House and questioned in a similar manner.
Chris Jarvis, the union’s Campaigns and Democracy Officer, told Concrete that UUEAS continues to support students’ right to protest: “Any attempts to limit the ability of students to legitimately protest or demonstrate should be resisted, as should any move to intimidate students to not participate in protest”.