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Volume 54 Number 12, June 1, 2024 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

KCL Students Protest against the London Defence Conference

Warmongers Not Welcome on Campus

On May 21, students from King's College London (KCL), alongside students from other universities, protested at the holding of the London Defence Conference, a high-profile event for policymakers, politicians, and academics involved in the defence and arms trade industries, co-organised by the School of Security Studies at King's College London. The London Defence Conference was established as an annual event in 2022. Attendance is by invitation only.

The conference, held at Bush House at KCL's Strand Campus from May 21-23, hosted several deplorable figures implicated in war crimes and atrocities, to the dismay of students and staff. Among those highlighted on a "no entry list" circulated by students was Lord George Robinson, the 10th Secretary General of NATO, who held the position during the US invasion of Afghanistan. In December 2002, before the US-led invasion of Iraq, Robinson declared that NATO had a "moral obligation" to support the United States if it attacked. Despite his endorsement of this monstrous war on the Iraqi people, which resulted in the deaths of over 460,000 Iraqi civilians, King's College London saw fit to invite him to chair a workshop with former Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, titled "Being Defence Secretary".

Also in attendance were representatives from commercial arms companies such as MBDA Missile Systems and BAE Systems. Both firms have recently been named by The European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights in their 300-page submission to the International Criminal Court's Office of the Prosecutor, a submission which calls on the ICC to investigate whether high-ranking officials, from both European companies and governments, have criminal responsibility for supplying arms used by members of the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led military coalition in potential war crimes in Yemen.

As well as standing accused of complicity in war crimes in Yemen, both firms have close links with the genocidal Israeli military; the German arm of MBDA Missile Systems has a partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), while BAE systems is notoriously involved in the production and maintenance of the Israeli Air Force's F-15, F-16, and F-35 fighter jets, which have all been used in the indiscriminate genocidal bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the deaths of over 35,000 Palestinians, according to the UN.

The protest, held to coincide with the first day of the conference, is but the latest expression of anger among students and staff about King's College London's militarisation and complicity in the unfolding genocide against the Palestinian people and comes after weeks of mass walkouts, demonstrations and sit-ins.

"KCL Palestine Action", the organisers behind the protest against the London Defence Conference, are the leading action group at KCL, composed of students and alumni who have been campaigning for King's College London to sever these institutional links with Israeli apartheid.

KCL Palestine Action has advanced resolute demands of demilitarisation, divestment, severance of ties with Israeli universities and the revocation of the insidious IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism. They have been scheduled to meet the senior management of the university May 30 on the basis of these demands. What remains to be known at the time of writing is whether the provost, Shitij Kapur, will heed the anger of staff and students and finally reconsider the University's reprehensible position at the negotiating table.

Regardless of the outcome of these negotiations, the turnout at the protest on the May 21 surely makes clear that the students at KCL and across Britain champion an anti-genocide and anti-war stance - whether the powers that be are advocating for war in Palestine, or a war against Russia, China, Iran, DPRK or any other sovereign country which the Anglo-American imperialists malign as part of the "axis of evil". The students are tireless and ever-increasing in number for the fight for an anti-war government and institutions which are anti-war.

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