Protestors against BAE clashed with University security at todays Graduate Careers Fair.
The protestors, who were protesting against University investment in BAE, numbered around twenty and caused minor disturbances.
The group staged a demonstration and a die-in, where the protestors lay on the ground pretending to be dead. The twenty protestors were ‘dead’ for ten minutes, and wore red to represent blood, holding up a banner saying “BAE, careers in corruption and destruction”.
The University hold over £1million worth of shares in both BAE and Rolls Royce, two of the world’s largest arms-producing companies.
Some protestors voiced concerns over the heavy handedness of the porters and security. One protester said that a porter “took my flyers and tried to push me out of the physics building”. According to Freddy Vanson, one of the Disarm members, a security officer apparently told the group that they were on “private property” and were “trespassing”.
A security officer however said that the group was “preventing other students from having their legitimate right to get careers advice”. He also commented that the group was causing a fire hazard as there was a fire door right next to the BAE stall.
Vanson said that they had a right as students at York to say where their money should be invested and that they didn’t want the University to invest in the arms trade.
According to Vanson, they wanted to “highlight the danger to students of working for such a corrupt company”, referring to BAE’s involvement in alleged corruption in eastern Europe and Africa. “We (Disarm) haven’t gone away,” he added, in reference to previous protests.
The die in started at 12:45 next to the BAE stand and lasted ten minutes. After around five minutes, a security officer attempted to wake the dead to no effect. However, after another five minutes the group got up and began to hand around Disarm flyers.
Chris Venables, another protester, said he was taking part due to BAE’s involvement in fraud allegations, as well the company’s support of oppressive regimes. “BAE don’t use the usual channels of business” Venables explained. “Backhand money ends up in the pockets of bad people, such as Robert Mugabe. The arms trade is a dirty business that supports power in a dirty way”.
One protestor said the protest was a success, commenting that people were showing interest in what was going on and in the information on the flyers. Vanson added that the protest had been “effective” and had gone “just as well as we’d hoped. We were hoping to do the die in for two minutes but we got ten, so we’re pleased”.
Similar campaigns against the University’s investment in companies with links to the arms trade took place in February as well as in 2005. In Febuary, the protestors managed to hand a petition signed by nearly 2,000 students against investment in the arms trade to senior staff members in Heslington Hall.
Currently, York University is the UK’s sixth largest University investor in the arms trade. Following the protest in February, the University made the decision not to invest further in the arms trade as part of its ethical investment policy. However, The University of York Pension Fund, which isn’t part of The University of York, can invest in arms.