“The atmosphere was easy-going”, says Pinar Coşkun, project manager at the Erasmus Food Lab, of Monday’s occupation of the Sanders Building. She and her colleagues made soup for the campaigners. She also cleaned the area being occupied. “The students are our children, so I want to take care of them.”
Coşkun thinks it’s ‘odd’ that the Executive Board did not show up for talks. “I was hoping they’d come and speak with the campaigners over a bowl of soup”, she says.
Instead, riot police showed up in the early evening. “I thought that was really strange”, says Coşkun. “I’m not much of an activist, so I’d never seen riot police in action. It all looked very dramatic and threatening.”
Activists occupy Sanders building Erasmus University
Some forty people occupied the Sanders building on the Woudestein campus on Monday…
Another person who was there regularly throughout the day was Derk Loorbach, professor of Socio-economic Transitions at the EUR. “The campaigners presented reasonable demands, had a good programme and demonstrated social engagement”, he says. “They were all very friendly and civil too.” Unsurprisingly, then, he dismisses claims that they posed a security threat as ‘total rubbish’.
Loorbach is of the opinion that the university miscalculated its response to the occupation. “There were too many police officers”, he says. “This is a textbook example of an overreaction on the part of an established order that feels threatened and therefore went in hard. But that’s never a successful long-term strategy for any regime.”
Loorbach believes that the Board ought to have engaged with the campaigners. “The university claims to want to have a positive social impact. The Board is doing its utmost to become more sustainable, and yet it always falls short in that respect. This was their opportunity to debate the issue.”
Men in body armour
From his office in the Sanders Building, the chair of the Rotterdam Faculty of Law Society (JFR), Joshua Kruithof, witnessed the occupation from start to finish. “I had no idea this would happen, so it came completely out of the blue for me”, he says. “People were just chatting and drinking coffee, and then the atmosphere flipped as men in body armour swooped in to disperse the demonstrators.”
Despite supporting the campaigners’ demands, Joshua understands the police intervention. “It’s silly that 10 or so people refused to budge once they’d made their point. At that point, it becomes counterproductive and you end up creating more polarisation, in my view.”