Debates back LSE students

4 February 1969

This week Guild Gazette, as well as reporting on last week’s sit-in at the Social Sciences building in support of students at the LSE,  carries this front-page account of the discussion in the House of Debates on the same issue:

A packed House of Debates last week passed overwhelmingly a motion supporting the students of the London School of Economics in their actions against the school authorities.

The motion that “this house offers full support to LSE students in their demands for – 1. Reopening LSE, no gates, no police; 2. No victimisation, Drop all charges against students; 3. Stop the staff from acting as political informers” which was a private members motion proposed by Mr David Jenkins of the Politics department, was passed by 164 votes to 40 with hardly any abstentions.

Despite some heckling and reminders from the chair that as this was only a private members motion and there were guests in the house Mr Jenkins gave a lengthy account of the events leading to and following the closing of LSE.

Miss Ann Mullin, who had earlier been the subject of heated exchanges between President Richard Davies and Mr Chris Chopping, spoke against the motion, but like Mr Jenkins she was frequently interrupted by points of information.

Mr Brian Gallon, a student from the London School of Economics who was visiting Liverpool for a few days added to Mr Jenkins’ description of the events in LSE and answered several questions on the details of the removal of the iron gates and the school’s closure. Mr. Gallon also asked “Why is it necessary for us to have to take up the time of the House of Debates on this matter. Why doesn’t Liverpool have general meetings of Guild where important matters like this can be discussed?”

Mr Chopping made a short, but poignant, speech for the opposition. However all his points, including the relevance of this issue to Panto were answered in a forceful manner by Mr Peter Cresswell, in summing up for the proposition.

The vote was finally taken after almost an hour and a half of debate. The result was followed by demands that the result should be made known not only to the students of LSE but also to the Liverpool Daily Post which had that morning carried a story stating that 6,200 Liverpool students were ignoring the sit-in over LSE .

The main debate of the evening, which followed, was to the motion “This House believes freedom of speech enslaves effective government.” Prince Michael Grousinski, pretender to the throne of Georgia, in Russia, proposed the motion and his eloquent command of history added variety to the political divisions of the House. Typical of his speech was his reply to the suggestion that monarchy suppressed the people. “No it lifts them up to heaven,” he said seriously.

The humour Prince Michael added to the occasion was soon lost, however, when Mr E J Hamm of Oswald Mosley’s party rose to oppose the motion. For a short time he received a passive hearing, but his assertion that “the Black shirts did not brutally remove questioners from meetings in the 1930s” angered many students, especially one whose mother was threatened and whose companions were kicked down stairs at one such meeting.

At this point a considerable group stood up and walked from the debating chamber. One of the protesters later commented: ”I did not walk out because Mr. Hamm is a member of a fascist organisation. I am prepared to argue and debate against anyone irrespective of political belief. I walked out because I am not prepared to listen to deliberate and blatant lies.”

Later as Mr Peter Ryrie, past president of Guild made an attack on Mr Hamm’s movement, a number of large men from outside the University took up positions near the exits. However, there was no real trouble and those remaining in the House defeated the motion by 43 votes to 41 with 23 abstentions.

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University reacts to sit-in

4 February 1969

This week’s Guild Gazette leads with this report on the 24-hour sit-in at the Social Science building in solidarity with students at the LSE. The sit-in was the first protest of this kind at Liverpool University.

Pro Vice-Chancellor White, speaking on behalf of the University, yesterday said, “The University neither condemns or supports the sit-in in the Social Sciences building last week.  The sit-in did not disturb the running of the University in any way. We feel that minorities should have the right to conduct such demonstrations provided they remain peaceful and do not hinder the normal running of the University in any way.”

The Pro Vice-Chancellor went on to add that the University did not know enough about the situation at LSE to dissociate itself from the action of the authorities there, as the protesters had demanded. We would have to have information direct from the London School of Economics before we could make such a decision.

He also pointed out that there was no question of the University taking disciplinary action on those sitting in. “The only way in which such an act would be taken was if by sitting there students work suffered. But even if this did happen then the matter would be one between the individual student and his department,” he said.

Students gathered at the Social Science building last week where the sit-in was taking place. The sitters-in refused to let the Gazette photographer take photographs inside the building for fear of disciplinary action.

The events of the sit-in were that last Wednesday, at 10.30 am, a group of about 40 students marched from the Union to the Social Studies building where, were later joined by a further thirty or so, spent 24 hours sitting in the foyer.

The protest, the first of its kind at Liverpool, was aimed at support of the students at LSE. Despite reports in the local press to the contrary, the sit-in was totally unconnected with the Politics department and with the resignation of the student side of the staff-student committee of that department the previous day.

”It was decided as the sit-in was not representative of students at Liverpool University it had no power to make demands for greater student participation in the running of the University,” said one of the protesters.

The attitude of the porters and campus police throughout these events was one of interest rather than anger. ”They seem to regard staying in the foyer here as much more comfortable than walking round the campus in the cold”, said a demonstrator after talking to the campus policemen there.

Panto committee,  however, adopted a much more hostile attitude. They attempted to poke fun at the demonstrators by organising a tour to the Social Studies building but after the first group arrived one student had to be restrained by a porter and the president ot Politics Society from running a fire hose on the demonstrators.

Panto Publicity Secretary John Cleugh pointed out: “‘This action may have a serious effect on public opinion as far as Panto is concerned.” A similar opinion was expressed by the committee of Biological Society as well as by several students asked for their opinions by a Gazette reporter.

Some of the 75 students who picketed Toxteth Docks last week try to give a leaflet to the driver of a lorry leaving the docks. The students were protesting at the shipment of arms from Liverpool to Federal Nigeria for use in the war against Biafra. Though most of the dockers accepted the leaflets, some of them pointed out that this work was their living and they could not refuse the three times their normal wage rates they got for handling arms.