Windows and doors were damaged and a common-room fridge raided after about 30 student protesters broke into the University of Auckland clock tower yesterday afternoon with claims from both sides about violent behaviour.
The students, protesting about the likely rise in student fees, forced Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon to flee the building and take refuge in his heavily guarded office in the Albert Nathan House on campus.
Student protest leader Adam Craigie said protesters were told by the university to come to the clock tower at 3pm where they would be able to watch a live stream of a University Council meeting where fees were being discussed.
However, he said when the students arrived they weren't allowed into the building.
"We attempted to enter the building but due to the aggressive nature of the security guards, most people were not able to get in. I was pushed down the stairs and others were barricaded out."
However, security guards said it was the students who were the aggressive ones.
About 30 pushed past security and made their way into the building where they barricaded themselves in a room and were throwing chairs around. A fire alarm was also set off.
Four doors were damaged and the fridge was raided in a common-room in the building and a window was understood to have been broken.
Protesters left the building about 5.30pm and were heading to McCutcheon's office to continue their protest.
As of late yesterday none of the protesters had been arrested. There were about 10 police officers at the scene and many more security staff.
Earlier in the day a large number of university staff members were understood to have been told to leave their buildings ahead of the protest.
The same meeting last year sparked widespread protests on campus after students were refused entry to the meeting.
Also at that stage protesters stormed the clock tower and police were called to campus after the university decided to raise course fees by four per cent.
Student James Roberts, who helped organise yesterday's protest, said initially more than 300 students had put their hand up to join the rally.
"Fees have already gone up across all the other universities and the vice-chancellor [Stuart McCutcheon] made it clear they will be raising theirs."
Roberts said higher fees would make it difficult for students to afford tertiary education.
"We are going to do everything we can do for students to have a voice."
University of Auckland communications staff could not be reached for comment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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