Students occupying a disused university building in protest at redundancies say they have been barricaded in and harassed.
A rally is due to be held this afternoon outside the University of Brighton’s building in Pavilion Parade, where security staff have installed 10-foot high wooden boards.
The university says the hoardings have been put up to stop people climbing over railings, which have a steep drop into a basement well on the other side, and that a managed exit is available at all times.
But the students say its actions are “sordid and illegal”, and have vowed to stay until they are taken to court.
The students, who claim to be homeless, also say they want to reclaim the building as a community space.
A statement from the group said: “By attempting to stop us from entering our home, harassing us when we try, and installing fences on the land which we are legally occupying and in possession of, the university is operating in illegal and sordid ways.
“Whilst the university spends thousands on round-the-clock security and excessive fencing, they continue to make cuts across the board, and students live in increasingly precarious conditions.
“Despite the university’s actions, our spirits are high and we’re not going anywhere.
“We intend to stay here spreading joy and solidarity, and sharing food and laughter until they take us to court.”
A University of Brighton spokesperson said: “In the early hours of Monday, 18 September, a group of individuals gained entry to the University’s Pavilion Parade premises, setting off security alarms in the process.
“Over the course of the week, at least three of these individuals have left the premises.
“The safety of the occupants continues to be our paramount concern.
“We are in regular contact with them to check on their wellbeing and have briefed them on the risks associated with the building, which is in the process of being decommissioned.
“We have also taken steps to ensure the safety of others, including the installation of hoardings to prevent people climbing over fencing which has a significant drop to below ground level on the other side.
“A safe and managed point of exit remains in place for the occupants to use at any time.
“Our staff on site have acted respectfully and professionally at all times, sometimes under extreme pressure.”
“Pavilion Parade is no longer being used by the university for teaching or any other academic activity.
“Students and staff who were previously based in in the building have relocated to Mithras House on the University’s Moulsecoomb campus, where a modern, accessible and student-focused home for our School of Humanities and Social Science is opening for the start of the new academic year.”
The group alleges on their Instagram page, @UoBSolidarity, that there have been two assaults on students. Neither incident has been reported to Sussex Police.
In May this year, students occupied the vice chancellor’s office in the Cockcroft Building, on the Moulsecoomb Campus, to protest university plans to make 103 academic staff redundant.
A public rally in solidarity with the occupiers has been organised for today at 5pm outside the Pavilion Parade building.