Image Credit: Annie Watson
Tonight, December 2, York Student Solidarity Network organised a protest outside the Minster. Though the number of students present at the rally was low, their message still carried clear.
Nouse spoke with the organisers of the protest, who outlined to us their reasons for protesting. They told us that the group wants “reimbursement for tuition and accommodation fees, and safer Covid regulations and rules.”
They elaborated on the latter, explaining that “sticking loads of students in prison style isolation blocks was not safe, nor was it necessary.” They argue that because teaching has moved online, the need for students to return to campus is unnecessary, and ultimately “unsafe.” They believe adequate change needs to happen in regards to these regulations so to keep students safe.
Mental health issues were also at the forefront of their reasons for protest, with the group discussing the dramatic change in culture students have faced this year through having to isolate in their accommodation. They argue that support for students has not been strong enough, and further resources are needed.
The students also commented on the issue of staff safety, stating that “staff have said they don’t want in person teaching as well, and students second that.”
The Network recently released an open google form for students to pledge support to their rent strike. One of the participants told Nouse that it has thus far been a success with the goal being to receive over 200 signatures.
The group also told us about their past demonstrations, discussing the heavy police presence at them and the amount of times they were disbanded. There were no signs of that tonight, especially with the peaceful and small-scale nature of the demonstration.
The organiser commented on the timing of the protests in response to the criticism that demonstrations should not be taking place during the pandemic. They simply stated: “if not now when are we going to do it? Months down the line when we have already paid our fees and accommodation costs?” The students taking part in the protest all wore masks and were distanced amongst each other, despite the criticism of students unsafely protesting.
The group have further protests planned for the future, and do not plan to stop their movement anytime soon.