University building occupation ends after two weeks

By Odhran Gallagher

The occupation of 11 University Gardens by Glasgow Against Arms and Fossil Fuels has ended after just over two weeks.

The occupation of George Service House at 11 University Gardens by Glasgow Against Arms and Fossil Fuels ended last Tuesday after over two weeks. On the morning of Tuesday 6 February University security arrived at the building and blocked all exits, allowing the students inside to leave but refusing entry to any who tried to return to the building. 

An email from the University’s Chief Operating Officer David Duncan sent to all students and staff read: “The University upholds the right of students and staff to express their political views and to exercise free speech. However, we took the decision yesterday to lock the doors of the building – henceforth, the student protestors (organised under Glasgow Against Arms and Fossil Fuels – GAAF) will be allowed out of number 11 University Gardens whenever they wish but will not be allowed back in.”

Glasgow Against Arms and Fossil Fuels, operating under the name of GAAF since the start of 2023, is a student-led movement at the University which has moved from petitions, to sit-ins, to direct action in recent months. Beginning on Monday 22 January, activists from GAAF occupied 11 University Gardens, demanding, among other things, an immediate divestment of the roughly £5 million that the University invests in companies such as BAE Systems and the Thales Group, who are involved in weapons manufacturing. The group expanded their demands during the occupation to include decolonisation of the curriculum and the donation of £100 million by the University to help rebuild the ruined Islamic University of Gaza

Members of GAAF who remained in the building then barricaded themselves in a single room in which members of the group claim they were “initially repeatedly pushed – with one student hit in the head – by security who tried to enter from the other side of the door.”

At just after 1pm David Duncan was seen entering the building alongside other members of University staff and The Glasgow Guardian understands that he negotiated with the students who remained within the building to leave. By this time a large crowd of supporters had gathered outside of 11 University Gardens to show their support for the continuation of the occupation. Some of the supporters attempted to bring bottled water and food into the building but were refused entry by security. However, food from University of Glasgow catering was later distributed to the students who remained within the building.

By 4pm the crowd gathered outside had dispersed and the building was visibly empty. A statement put out on GAAF’s Instagram the following day read: “After over three hours, university leadership, including David Duncan, came to negotiate terms with occupation participants. Three terms were agreed: a meeting was to be scheduled by the end of the week such that GAAF members could argue their case and demands to the Divestment working group; a guarantee that on the 14th of February the university court will discuss the conclusions drawn from the Divestment working group meetings; and occupants, students and staff would not face repercussions for their peaceful protest.

“Although the unnecessarily complex university procedures meant we left the building before achieving our demands, we managed to win a seat at the decision-making table. We believe this choice of ours increases the chances of achieving our goals at this stage, as with our close counsel the Senior Management of the university is more likely to implement the changes students and staff have been vocally campaigning for.”

In the email sent by the University before the eviction, David Duncan claimed: “While the sit-in has been entirely peaceful and no damage appears to have been done to property, the action has caused disruption to classes and inconvenience and stress for colleagues.  At all times, our overriding priority has been the health and safety of everyone involved.

“The students had announced that they proposed to use the building for community events; this meant that non-members of the University community could be allowed in, creating a potential health and safety risk.”

It was previously reported in The Glasgow Guardian, as well as in a press release from GAAF, that the group intended to use the building for events which, according to one member, would mean a “higher likelihood of non-students coming in”. 

This occupation is believed to be the longest in the University’s history since the occupation of Hetherington House by students for seven months in 2011. 


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments