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Police bring end to 65-day SCA occupation

The longest-running student occupation in the University of Sydney’s history has come to a end, as Nina Dillon Britton reports.

The longest-running student occupation at the University of Sydney ended early this morning when security and police forced activists to leave the Sydney College of the Arts after 65 days of occupation.

At 6.45 this morning, about 15 security guards and 20 police officers broke down the door of the school’s administration building in Rozelle and told occupiers to leave. When one occupier questioned why, she alleged she was forcibly removed from the building.

Security guards then proceeded to tear down protest banners and artworks from around the campus, in what one occupier described as “unnecessary intimidation tactics”.

A spokesperson for the University confirmed today police had “escorted a number of students” off the SCA’s campus.

“The University of Sydney has repeatedly affirmed the right of students to protest about proposed changes to the Sydney College of the Arts,” they said.

The occupation has been organised and by both SCA students and some from the University of Sydney’s main campus.

The occupation commenced on August 22 as a protest against cuts to SCA staff and the closure of the Callan Park campus, where the SCA currently operates.

“It’s clear that this means the University will go to whatever means necessary to protect its precious image. The spiel they give about respecting the right to protest is obviously false,” occupier Ché Baines said.

It is unclear what caused the timing of police to move on the building, but the University spokesperson said occupiers had refused requests of staff to retrieve personal items.

“The protestors have refused a number of polite, informal and then formal requests for the University to relocate personal possessions. As a result, the University has reluctantly taken action to remove the protestors from the building,” they said.

Only a few weeks ago, security guards tore down a large banner hanging from the Quadrangle and police broke up protesters staying in tents on the main campus.

Some however, see the University’s response as beneficial for the campaign.

“I see the eviction as a win for us, it shows we really got under the University’s skin, and now they’ve shown their true colours. It’s more publicity for us,” said activist and newly elected SRC councillor Thandi Bethune.

The occupation has been a divisive issue within the campaign, with some believing it was needlessly antagonistic to the University administration or a platform not used to its full potential.

Protesters remain unsure as to the future of the campaign.

“In terms of going forward, its still a long battle, its not going to be over in three months, we have the next three years to flesh out the details of the move. At the moment it’s hard to tell what’ll happen,” said Bethune.