Students to sit exams at alternative locations after protesters occupy building

A group of student protesters have “unlawfully barricaded” a building where exams were due to take place, the University of Manchester has said.

The protesters, which are linked to the nearby Encampment of Resistance for Palestine, have occupied the Whitworth Hall building on the campus.

Police attended a “large demonstration” on campus on Monday evening and they prevented more protesters from getting into Whitworth Hall but the occupation of the building remains, the University of Manchester (UoM) said.

Protesters have barricaded Whitworth Hall building on the University of Manchester campus.
Protesters have barricaded Whitworth Hall building on the University of Manchester campus (Manchester Leftist Action/PA)

The UoM, which has delivered a formal notice to the occupiers, said it has had to activate its exam contingency plans as the group has “refused” its request to vacate the premises to allow student exams to proceed as planned.

There will now be extra marshals to direct students to different exam locations and the start of exams affected will be delayed to factor in the disruption.

The group of protesters is calling on the university to open negotiations with the pro-Palestine encampment and ensure no disciplinary action is taken against students involved in the encampment, occupations or other protests.

It is demanding that the UoM ends its partnership with BAE Systems and cuts ties with Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A UoM spokesperson said: “Over the weekend, a group of students from our university gained unauthorised access to the Whitworth Hall complex.

“Various entrances and access points have been unlawfully barricaded, and occupiers have broken onto a balcony, which poses significant health and safety risks to the occupiers and others.

“We are in discussions with the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Services about these risks, which go well beyond those we have seen previously.”

All students due to take an exam in Whitworth Hall have been emailed new arrangements, it said.

The university added it was “deeply disappointing” that the group’s actions were directly impacting on “one of the most intense periods” in the year.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, a UoM spokesperson said: “As the university has been clear in the formal notice delivered to them today and in previous formal notices issued to occupiers, the university firmly support students’ rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and peaceful protest. These are fundamental rights that allow for a healthy exchange of ideas.

“However, deliberately disrupting exams clearly violates the standards of behaviour and conduct from students, as outlined in our Student Charter and student disciplinary regulations.”

A statement from the occupiers, released on Saturday, said: “We have taken the Whitworth building to escalate our pressure on the university to end its ties with the genocide in Palestine.

“We have full control of this building, which is due to hold hundreds of students for exams next week.

“We will not leave until the university commit to not disciplining any student protesters and enter negotiations on the other demands.”

Superintendent Nicola Williams, of Greater Manchester Police’s City of Manchester district, said: “We attended a protest in the city centre which started at approximately 5.30pm yesterday in Piccadilly Gardens, travelling via St Peter’s Square before heading down Oxford Road.

“The protest for the most part was peaceful, however, the behaviour did escalate with missiles thrown and police equipment stolen. The protest came to a full conclusion at approximately 11pm.

“Crimes of theft and affray now being investigated with inquiries ongoing to determine those responsible.

“Body worn footage of the attending officers has been reviewed and demonstrates they acted lawfully.

“We will always work with organisers and those exercising their legal right to peaceful protest, but must act where criminal offences are identified.”