Over 200 University and sixth form students occupied the Rad Cam yesterday afternoon, in protest over the proposed 40 percent cuts to higher education and increased tuition fees.
The protest was part of the National Day of Action, which saw thousands of students take to the streets in solidarity.
Protesters rallied in front of the Carfax Tower on Cornmarket and Queen Street before marching down High Street, stopping traffic for about ten minutes. Upon reaching the Rad Cam, half a dozen students climbed over the fence and rushed toward the entrance, braging past a facilities employee before gaining access to the building.
To many students the fees represent a bar to university education. Lucie Norton from The Cherwell School sixth form said: “Nowadays everybody gets a degree, you need one. How are we supposed to get a leg up in life if we have to be in thousands of pounds worth of debt to do it? It just means the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer.”
Holding signs that said “Fuck Fees” and “Nick is a rotten Clegg” the protesters chanted “Let us in, we want to read.” Some wore animal masks or scarves covering their faces to prevent identification by the police, who carried film equipment.
Almost 150 students entered the Rad Cam, convening in the lower level for a meeting. Protesters demanded the University retain the current fee structure and pledge to remain a public institution, according to an Oxford Education Campaign statement.
Some protesters condemned the library occupation, saying it was disrespectful and ultimately counterproductive to the cause.
“I think occupying the Rad Cam is, frankly, silly because this is kind of a pro-education march, and there were people in [the Radcam] studying,” said Harriet Heyworth, a Cherwell School student. “They shouldn’t be interrupted”.
Radcam Associate Director Richard Ovenden said the protest was disruptive, preventing library staff from assisting students, but added that the protesters had been polite and organized.
For about an hour of the occupation, protesters were able to come and go from the building without repercussions. Almost 30 police officers surrounded the Rad Cam, inspecting all those who left the building, searching students, faculty and protesters alike for any stolen library property.
One Cherwell sixth form student was warned by police after emerging from the Rad Cam chanting “Cameron puts the C in c**t”.
Sixth form students Kriston Fathers and Lucie Norton said there was no need for the searches: “we care about the library, we weren’t destroying anything. We’re not just a bunch of angry kids; we have a reasoned argument which we are getting across in a mature way.”
At time of going to press, several protesters were still in the building.
Sian Ford, also from Cherwell sixth form who emerged after nearly two hours said the debate going on inside the Rad Cam was “a civilized discussion and very inspiring”.
“I don’t see why there are so many police here” she said. “We walked peacefully through the streets.”
Among those gathered around the Camera were students unable to work due to the disruption. Though frustrated, they were not all opposed to the protest. One graduate student said that he “wouldn’t mind working alongside the protesters. Ultimately, I’m happy to sacrifice a day’s work for the cause.”
Some students already in the Rad Cam when protesters entered continued to work around the protesters, but p0lice would not let any further students in.At least one individual suffered a head injury that did not appear to be police-related. No arrests had been made as of 6 p.m.University spokesperson, Pete Wilson said: “We do support peoples’ right to protest peacefully and within the law and do hope the situation can be resolved peacefully and amicably.”