Protesters have said that they are considering taking legal action after they were removed from University land last week.
Three members of the Leeds Community Project were arrested during a six-day occupation of 6 Grosvenor Mount in protest of plans to sell the holding to private investors.
University security and police officers attended the scene on Thursday 19th February, when demonstrators were arrested on suspicion of stealing electricity from the site. They were later released without charge.
The group claims that activists were ‘unlawfully evicted’ and that University security staff entered the site illegally. However, the University has argued that protesters were trespassing on its land.
A Police spokesperson told this newspaper, ‘At 10.26am on Thursday, February 19, officers were called to a property in Grosvenor Mount, Headingley, by squatters who were in dispute with representatives of the site’s owner.
Two men, aged 21 and 27, and a 26-year-old woman were subsequently arrested on suspicion of abstracting electricity after they were unable to provide any proof of legitimate use. They were later released without charge following further enquiries.’
In a statement, Leeds Community Project writes, ‘These were wrongful arrests as LCP had accounts set up in order to pay for the electricity. As a result of the arrests, the site was no longer occupied by LCP and the University was able to reclaim it. Other members arrived soon after and were threatened with detainment for trespassing. Given this ultimatum, LCP members chose to leave to avoid any further arrests’.
Leeds City Council rejected a bid to recognise 6 Grosvenor Mount as a community asset in January, and stated that the site has ‘no current use’.
However, Leeds Community Project argues that the land ‘holds many future possibilities for sustainable food growing and can be envisioned as a space for education and social events, as well as a space for nature and wildlife’. They also claim that local residents have been unable to access the site as it is currently closed off.
A University spokesperson said, ‘We can confirm that the University became aware of the occupation of the land and property at Grosvenor Mount by members of the Leeds Community Project and accordingly, the University security team attended the land. The land and property at Grosvenor Mount is privately owned by the University. As a result, members of the Leeds Community Project were trespassing on the site and accordingly, left the land after security and the police attended’.
A local food poverty café has come out in support of the occupation, and has condemned treatment of the protestors.
Co-Director of The Real Junk Food Project Sam Joseph told The Gryphon, ‘The way that the University, in conjunction with West Yorkshire Police, dealt with this situation was unlawful. We sincerely hope that justice is served on this matter. As an organisation, we are always happy to support community groups trying to reimagine urban spaces that serve the people rather than corporate interest’.
The Leeds Community Project’s statement added, ‘LCP is exploring its legal options regarding the unlawful and unjust eviction that occurred and is committed to continuing its resistance to the development of 6 Grosvenor Mount’.
The Gryphon understands that Leeds Community Project intends to continue its operation to prevent the land going on sale.