Lockdown Rebellion: Students Rip Down Fences Around Dorms

A man wearing a protective face mask walks near a Coronavirus-inspired piece of graffiti in Glasgow on April 4, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

University of Manchester students ripped down “prison-like” metal barriers erected around their dormitories to enforce social distancing, as England went into full lockdown on Thursday.

Students at the university’s Fallowfield campus awoke to find the fences being erected around the grounds, without warning, and with no way to pass them apart from one exit guarded by security.

Late in the afternoon, the university sent an email to the student body seen by The Guardian telling them that “security staff will ensure that only students who live in that accommodation can access safely and help avoid the mixing of households”, and that security may ask them to see their identity documents into order to enter their rooms.

“I don’t understand why they need to put up fences to keep us safe from the virus. It makes us feel like they don’t trust us, it feels like they’re locking us in our rooms,” one student told the newspaper.

That night, hundreds of students gathered to protest the restrictions and tore down the fencing.

Students present at the protest told the BBC that they had been blocked off from accessing green spaces on campus, saying the university felt like a “prison”, with some referring to it as “HMP [Her Majesty’s Prison] Fallowfield”.

University administrators said it had erected the fencing over concerns of non-students accessing campus buildings and to “help avoid the mixing of households”. But the University of Manchester later apologised to its students and pledged to remove any remaining barriers on Friday.

The protest came as England went into full lockdown on Thursday, Guy Fawkes Night, with non-essential shops closed and the mixing of households banned.

Tensions had boiled over in another part of the country, when in Merseyside revellers clashed with police on the last night of freedom. When police tried to break up celebrations on the eve before bonfire night, several young people launched fireworks at officers, though none were injured.

There is growing disquiet over the British government’s lockdown strategy, with Million Mask March protesters, many wearing the Guy Fawkes masks made famous by the movie V for Vendetta, descending on Trafalgar Square in London.

The Daily Mail reports that many shouted “freedom” and “take our country back”, with banners reading, “no more lockdown”. Police said they made more than 100 arrests, the majority of which for breaching coronavirus laws.

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