Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 54 Number 10, May 11, 2024 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Hands Off Rafah!

Students Worldwide Intensify Actions and Encampments

Paris, students occupation - Photo: Mimi Greves

English Universities join encampment actions

In Britain, encampments have been established at at least 10 universities -- in Bristol, London (UCL and SOAS), Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh -- with students and faculty demanding their schools divest from companies complicit in Israeli genocide. An encampment was also initiated at Trinity College, Dublin.

Newcastle University encampment

At the peaceful Gaza camp at Newcastle University, students are demanding that the university calls for an immediate unconditional and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. They are demanding divestment in defence and security firms and transparency over all investments, collaborations and partnerships with such companies which includes Leonardo: Aerospace, Defence and Security, BAE systems, Pearson Engineering and Siemens. They want to see the university break its links with Israeli universities and to support the rebuilding of Palestinian universities. They also want Newcastle University to remove the use of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. The demands to break links with defence and security firms comes after a motion was passed at the Newcastle University Students' Union Council on March 14, 2024, which resolved "To lobby Newcastle University to ensure that the University does not engage in any research activities that could be used for offensive purposes, rather than defensive purposes within the military sector."

Students at UCL (University College London) took to the main quad of their campus and set up tents, inspired by the US encampments. Students from other London universities, particularly Kings College London (KCL) have joined this encampment.

At Goldsmiths University, students who have been protesting and walking out since the genocide in Gaza began and recently had an occupation, students occupied the university library. On May 3, it is reported that the university conceded on all their demands to divest from Israeli apartheid, introduce scholarships for Palestinian students and more.

The demands of Leeds University students include divestment from companies arming Israel and the ending of partnerships between the university and Israeli institutions.

In Bristol, students occupied the Royal Fort Gardens opposite the Senate House. The students are protesting against the University of Bristol's complicity in Israel's genocide against the Palestinian people. In a press statement they have stated that, gathered through Freedom of Information requests and publicly available research records, the University holds £92 million in financial investments and research partnerships with arms companies. These investments and partnerships enable the continued arming of Israel.

The students at the Manchester Camp of Resistance for Palestine have issued the demands: Cut all ties with BAE Systems; Cut all ties with 'Tel Aviv' University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Implement an ethical research policy; No disciplinary action against students involved in protests.

Manchester Gaza encampment

Staff and alumni at the University of Cambridge in England signed an open letter to express their "solidarity with Cambridge students as they launch an encampment protesting the university's ties to Israel's genocidal war in Gaza". The letter, which had over 1,700 signatories within 48 hours, said that the students "join an admirable tradition of emancipatory struggle that includes earlier student protests against South African apartheid and the war in Vietnam".

Following a five-day encampment at the campus of Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the university announced it had agreed with the student demands for divesting from Israeli companies. "An agreement was reached" after "successful talks between the university's senior management and the protestors," the university said in a statement posted on its website, meaning that TCD would no longer have ties with Israeli firms. TCD further said that the university "will complete a divestment from investments in Israeli companies that have activities in the occupied Palestinian Territory and appear on the UN blacklist in this regard".

Fifty Spanish universities announced they would break ties with Israeli institutions. The Confederation of Spanish Universities (CRUE) announced on May 9 that it will cut ties with Israeli universities and research centres "that have not expressed a firm commitment to peace and compliance with international humanitarian law." The decision came as students across Spain began camping out on university campuses this week, as part of the wider global wave of pro-Palestine student protests. Earlier this week, some 200 students at Madrid's Complutense University set up an encampment. Similar encampments have also been set up in Barcelona and the Basque Country. Spain's Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities Diana Morant said earlier in the week that Spanish universities should not only be "a place for academic formation, but also critical thinking." She praised the students in the encampments saying she was proud of them for mobilizing.

Encampment for Palestine, Valencia, Spain

In the Netherlands, Dutch police dispersed a student protest at the University of Amsterdam in its second consecutive day of protest over Israel's genocidal war on the besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip. Police forces in full riot gear attacked protesters and knocked down makeshift barricades of desks, bricks and wooden pallets, arresting at least 32 demonstrators. Videos of the incident show police dragging several students away as hundreds shouted: "Shame on you!"

The Free University of Brussels has announced its withdrawal from a scientific project on artificial intelligence that involved two Israeli institutions, the Palestinian Information Centre informed. In a statement issued on May 8, the university explained that the decision to withdraw from the scientific project was made after an evaluation conducted by the Ethics Committee. It went on to say that, following the recent developments in Gaza, it has decided to conduct a comprehensive review of all research projects involving Israeli partners. The university does not have any bilateral cooperation with Israel, it added, and is determined to continue its partnerships with Palestinian institutions.

Encampment for Palestine, Sorbonne, Paris

Meanwhile, in the US, students across the country have continued to resist the escalation of brutal police attacks. Police used pepper spray to clear a tent encampment at George Washington University (GWU) and arrested dozens of demonstrators on May 8. Police also moved in on the night of May 7 to break up an encampment at the University of Massachusetts. Video from the scene in Amherst showed an hour-long operation as dozens of officers in riot gear systematically tore down tents and took protesters into custody. The operation continued into early May 8. At the University of Chicago the tent encampment was cleared by officers in riot gear on May 7 after administrators said the protesters "had crossed a line". Hundreds of protesters had gathered for at least eight days until administrators warned them to leave or face removal.

New York City police arrested 50 people outside the Fashion Institute of Technology on the evening of May 7 after protesters who had been rallying nearby arrived to support a student encampment. Chancellor Javier Reyes said he ordered the sweep after talks over a wide range of demands failed to yield an agreement to dismantle the encampment and engage in "constructive discussions". At The New School in New York City, faculty launched their encampment for Palestine on May 9.

At the University of Vermont, student protesters ended their nine-day encampment on May 8 after the university agreed to cancel the invitation to have Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, as commencement speaker. The school said that on May 19 Thomas-Greenfield would not give the address.

Since April 18, about 2,800 people have been arrested on 50 US campuses.

Students at Wesleyan University, a liberal arts school in Connecticut, commenced their on-campus demonstration on April 29, which includes a pro-Palestinian tent encampment, as an act of political expression, they said. Reports inform that the camp has grown from about 20 tents a week ago to more than 100. "The protesters' cause is important - bringing attention to the killing of innocent people," university President Michael Roth wrote to the campus community. "And we continue to make space for them to do so, as long as that space is not disruptive to campus operations."

At the Rhode Island School of Design, President Crystal Williams spent more than five hours with protesters discussing their demands after students started occupying a building on May 6. On May 7 the school announced it was relocating classes from the building.

(Workers' Weekly, Counterfire, TML)

Leeds University encampment

Trinity College, Dublin

Edinburgh University encampment

Cambridge University encampment - Photos: Mohammadfff

Oxford University encampment

Link to Full Issue of Workers' Weekly

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Weekly Online Archive