Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA) occupation of Deptford Town Hall comes to an end after 137 days, having won extensive demands to combat institutional racism at the university. It has also brought to the campus and the local community a new force of anti-racist energy. The occupation may be over, but for GARA, this is just the beginning.
During these 137 days, we have hit the national press and have won the support of activists and campaigners all over the world, including US revolutionary activist Angela Davis, former mayor of Sheffield and MEP Magid Magid, Vicky Foxcroft MP, and campaigners against campus militarisation at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. In this final week, the Senior Management Team (SMT) threatened and took legal action against Black and Minority Ethnic, Muslim, LGBTQ and disabled students (this was not the first time that SMT had done this). So much for Goldsmiths’ reputation for “progressive” politics. It did this to force GARA into leaving the occupation without signed commitments from SMT on the demands. Regardless, GARA stood its ground, in spite of the court-order threat of police and bailiffs, and within days won new expressions of support from around 150 student officers nationally, over 300 staff at Goldsmiths, and over 1500 supporters around the world.
We end the occupation having forced SMT to commit to a serious programme of activity and support for BAME students, workers and the local community, outlined below. This programme addresses the racism students face in the university and beyond, and also challenges the racist labour practice of outsourcing, and the ruthless process of gentrification. The occupation was the space in which this programme was developed, but it is also the product of years of struggle by BAME students and workers at Goldsmiths. It is clear that today’s victory has been won by the arduous labour and hard-fought resistance of activists and allies of Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action. Sitting across the table from SMT was one moment in this, but those 10 hours of negotiation do not eclipse 4 months of popular and community organising. This organising will continue and will stay militant.
We are clear that institutional racism is a systemic and endemic problem which cannot be ended in one summer or in one location. We are, today, launching a national and international call for all students and workers around the world who want to challenge institutional racism at their universities and colleges. We call on all those who are horrified by the global resurgence of the far-right, to redouble our efforts, working with grassroots organisations to transform our campuses into sites of anti-racist praxis. Let’s build a global movement! Click this link to sign up to our mailing list.
We hope that this Black, Minority Ethnic, Muslim, LGBTQ and disabled student-led occupation inspires a new generation of anti-racist activists to build strength collectively and never back down in the fight for our collective liberation.
We want to thank all our supporters for successfully ramping up the pressure on Goldsmiths to sign the contract, committing them to an unprecedented series of actions. Even this was a hard fight, and on the final day of the occupation we have had to spend hours convincing SMT to sign on commitments to actions which are basic necessities to make Goldsmiths survivable for BAME students. This is after they had already agreed to them in a meeting (of which the minutes will soon be available online). All of this was done under the threat of eviction and further legal action. But finally, we got a signed commitment from SMT to not pursue legal action against GARA activists and allies.
The fight is not over. We are calling everyone to help us hold Goldsmiths to account in fulfilling the following commitments, which have been signed off in a legally binding document by SMT:
1) Reinstatement of the two Palestinian Scholarships.
2) Ensure all staff receive mandatory anti-racism training, including SMT.
3) Ensure all wellbeing and counselling staff receive cultural competency training.
4) Revising the job description for the wellbeing advisor and counselling team staff, so as to better meet the needs of BAME students, and to hire BAME wellbeing advisors.
5) SMT to go to Goldsmiths Council in September with a proposal for the in-housing of security guards and receptionists.
6) Reform of the hate-crime reporting centre, with a new taskforce to be set up to design the new complaints procedure, meeting a minimum of 3 times a month, with GARA representation.
7) All staff involved in the hate-crime reporting centre and the new complaints procedure to be given cultural competency training.
8) Funds for a reparative justice programme, with an open call for BAME academic researchers, whose findings on Goldsmiths’ colonial legacy will be published.
9) To allocate £20k for Black History events annually.
10) To allocate an additional £20k to Chaplaincy budget, and a bigger prayer room.
11) Public conversation with the local community to decide what is to be done with the statues of slave-owners and colonialists at Deptford Town Hall. In the meantime, temporary plaques will detail the colonial history of the statues.
12) Greater local community access to Deptford Town Hall, with more targeted outreach and engagement with BAME communities. Goldsmiths will introduce a drop-in service and online booking system at DTH where community members can make requests to book out space for events.
13) The appointment of a researcher to support Dr Nicola Rollock in her role as BAME attainment academic lead.
14) The racist SEAtS surveillance software will not be rolled out to any more departments until the Equalities Impact Assessment is completed and the project board makes a decision about the future of SEAtS.
15) Funding for paid BAME representatives for each department, pending approval by the new Racial Justice Action committee and the race audit.
16) All programmes to be audited for the purpose of decolonising the curricula, informed by the new Racial Justice Action committee with GARA representatives and other liberation groups involved in the process.
17) Goldsmiths to publish a statement on its complicity in racism, after GARA’s approval of the statement.
18) Working group to be formed with programme convenors, students and alumni to work towards the reinstatement of contact hours on the majority-BAME attended course BA Applied Social Science, Community Development & Youth Work.