‘…would have thought you fuckers would have had a better resistance“.
-Charles John Perry, SOAS Human Resources Manager (Employee Relations)
At about 7.00 a.m, a team of approximately 15 bailiffs entered 53 Gordon Square. The group smashed their way into the building by entrances at the basement and the roof of the fourth floor. Unable to pass through the barricaded hatch at the top floor, bailiffs used a sledge hammer to make a hole in the ceiling. They then used an electric saw to cut away the barricade beneath the hatch, providing themselves with a space large enough to make entry to the fourth floor. The double doors at the basement floor were also smashed in. Another group of bailiffs were attempting to batter through the ground floor front door until bailiffs in the building made it clear that access had already been gained.
Two members of SOAS management then arrived to take photographs and to extort from the occupiers assurances that they had not been maltreated.
For the last week the occupiers have been attempting to negotiate an exit with SOAS senior management. The first meeting between representatives of the Social Centre, the SOAS Student Union and SOAS Senior Management took place on Thursday 15 December. Immediately after the meeting, SOAS management sent an email to all staff misrepresenting the position of the Student Union. A letter to SOAS Management demanding a negotiated exit instead of an eviction has been signed by, among many others, the SOAS UCU president, the SOAS Unison Branch Chair, and the Student Union Postgraduate Students’ Officer. At subsequent meetings and in written correspondence with both the Student Union and the occupiers, SOAS management have repeatedly stressed their desire to negotiate and to avoid an eviction. At the last meeting between occupiers and management on Tuesday 20 December — two days before the eviction — SOAS Head of Secretariat Chris Ince implied that a negotiated exit date prior to 10 January would be acceptable to the School’s management.
The large group of highly trained and well equipped men who smashed and sawed their way into the building at 7 a.m this morning were not called up at a moment’s notice. The “negotiations” in which SOAS management have for the last week been pretending to engage have been nothing but a smokescreen. Their function has been to mollify SOAS Student Union and trade unions. Despite its weasel words about negotiation, the School’s management has been planning in earnest for an eviction.
The eviction has now occurred. It took place at enormous cost and with considerable personal risk to student occupiers. SOAS Human Resource Manager Charles John Perry may smilingly demand of the evicted occupiers that they confirm their good treatment. But it makes no difference. Hammers, drills, saws and battering rams aside, eviction is always violent. The Bloomsbury Social Centre, which sought to highlight and (as far as possible) materially to address the violence of evictions, in the face of what inevitably will be a tidal wave of them, is thus brought momentarily to an end. By concerted application of falsehood and cash, SOAS Management have secured for 53 Gordon Square a few more weeks of the disuse in which the University of London has for the last three years maintained it.
With or without a space, the occupiers will continue unceasingly to oppose the managed impoverishment of Bloomsbury residents, students and workers. New space won’t be long coming.