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Green graffiti protest backfires in historic uni building

A PROTEST by environmental campaigners backfired when spray paint used to tag pillars at Cardiff University left a permanent scar.

Staff based at the main building estimate the cost of repairs could reach £10,000 and stone masons may have to be called in.

Attempts by cleaners to remove the bright orange paint have been stopped and the slogans covered over with boards.

The building is grade II listed, which means it is “of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it”.    

The campaign group responsible, Cardiff People and Planet, said: ‘’We know that a lot of students and staff are very concerned about the state of the entrance hall.

“It has been questioned whether a grade II building was an appropriate location for our protest. Our decision was based on a comparable case in King’s College London where protesters spray-chalked on a similar surface of a grade I listed building.

“The amount of time and effort it is taking to restore the pillars, therefore, seems to be higher than we had expected. However, we take from several conversations with staff involved in the cleaning process that there are ways to restore the pillars to their previous state.”

Following the attack, the students were asked to leave and the was confiscated but no arrests were made.  

Laura Som, communications officer for Cardiff Students’ Union said: “We support the divestment movement as a whole and have been working hard in partnership with the university and People and Planet over the past year to get the issue discussed at the right level.

“We will continue this support over the coming months and will endeavour to represent the views of our members at this important time by lobbying the University to provide a commitment towards full divestment.

“However, we do not endorse the actions of students who vandalised the main building and do not condone any behaviour such as this.”

PHD student Josh Davies, who studies chemistry in the main building, said: “I hate the fossil fuel industry, I’m against pollution, it makes me sick what we do to our planet. But at the end of the day the only way to stop our planet’s destruction is to develop cheap and efficient alternatives to fossil fuels.

“The only places where this is viable is in academic institutions like Cardiff University, because the alternatives are not fully profitable yet.”

The slogans promoted an initiative set up by Go Fossil Free, a group urging companies to stop investing in fossil fuels by getting rid of stocks and bonds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.

Mr Davies continued: “Cardiff makes a barely measurable support for fossil fuels and then the profits and dividends are used for good. If Cardiff was to divest what would it actually achieve?”

Cardiff University did not respond over the cost of the clean-up but on Tuesday, the day of the attack, a spokesman said: “Whilst we fully appreciate there are strongly held views and we respect the right to lawful and peaceful protest where such actions cross the line then we reserve the right to investigate under our student disciplinary procedure.

“We are currently reviewing the University’s ethical investment policy and the current draft includes for the first time a clear statement that the University will divest from companies that make more than 10% of their revenues from coal and/or tar sands.:

The University Council is due to make a decision on divestment on March 17.

In 2015 when a FOI request revealed that Cardiff University had invested £2m into the fossil fuel industry and as of July 2017 the university as £10m invested.

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