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  • Writer's pictureOzioma Ofoezie

Pro-Palestinian students occupy university buildings


Banner in the Parkinson Building (Leeds)

 

In recent times, there has been an increase in student activism concerning the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the seemingly complicit behaviour of government officials, corporations and institutions, including universities. Students have found numerous ways to protest what they feel to be the unjust involvement of their universities in Israel’s occupation of Palestine. We’ve seen multiple walkouts, protests and online petitions at a number of universities to gain the attention of their respective academic institutions, with limited success. However, students do not seem to be backing down but are in fact stepping up their demonstrations.


Student action


On Wednesday the 13th of March, students at University College London (UCL) joined fellow students at Leeds, Bristol and Goldsmiths universities in occupying key buildings in protest of their university’s support of Israel by occupying the Jermy Bentham rooms. The first occupation began in the basement of Professor Stuart Hall on the New Cross campus of the South London institution, Goldsmiths University on the 20th of February. Students at the University of Leeds followed by occupying the Parkinson Building on the 7th of March. To round it off, the Victoria Rooms at Bristol University were occupied by students the day after.


The sit-ins are led by various student groups in support of Palestine across the different universities. While the specific demands vary among the protesters at each institution, a common thread unifies them; a resolute call for their universities to divest and sever connections with Israeli companies. Additionally, they advocate for enhanced measures to safeguard Palestinians on campus against harassment and discrimination. Aligned with the broader goal of removing Israeli influences on campus and compelling universities to acknowledge their role in the ongoing conflict, protesters have tailored their other demands to the specific context of each university. At the University of Leeds, for instance, demonstrators are calling for the immediate dismissal of Zecharia Deutsch, a Jewish university chaplain who temporarily left his post to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and has since returned to work on campus.


As this article is being written these groups have also been joined by DemilitariseUoN who have occupied the Trent building at the University of Nottingham. However, the occupation of the Parkinson building at the University of Leeds has ended after 15 days.


These types of protests are not unusual or new but have been used as a method of peaceful protest since the civil rights movement in the United States of America. Most notably, the Greensboro sit-in, protesting segregation in North Carolina in 1960.


What is happening in Leeds?


NTGPB have reporters in Leeds who witnessed the occupation of the Parkinson building first-hand. The occupation, like the others, began due to students getting fed up with the nonresponsiveness of the institution to their demands: “It was a build-up of the university refusing to acknowledge anything and only centring antisemitism while completely ignoring the islamophobia happening on campus”, said one of the occupiers in response to a question about why the occupation occurred. The occupation aimed to evoke communication with the university’s management and ultimately get their five demands met.


The demands are as follows:


1.     The University should acknowledge the existence of Israel's ongoing apartheid


2.     End partnerships with BAE Systems, the UK’s biggest defence contractor, which has helped build weapons used by the Israeli military


3.     End all academic and research partnerships with Israeli universities


4.     No war criminals on campus


5.     The university and LUU to stand with Palestine and the movement


But also, they want to increase political discourse on the matter on campus and make the general populace aware of what is happening in Gaza so they could get involved as well.



Poster from Parkinson foyer

“Parkinson was chosen because it is the university's logo and prized possession” said the occupier being interviewed. They continued “the reason for the quick escalation of Friday [the 8th of March] was because of the open day on Saturday”. The escalation being referred to was the abrupt closure of the building, locking many students and their belongings inside or outside of the building for the weekend. Students were not allowed free movement or access to necessities such as food or water before an agreement was struck for a brief interval period to allow necessities in. However, the general feeling of the night was a “stressful” one.


The university's response so far can be characterised as either one of suppression or a lack of recognition as the protestors’ demands are yet to be formally recognised and were told to take down banners and vacate the building.


Student drawn sticky notes in support of Palestine and the occupation of Parkinson

Days after the occupation has ended, there is diminishing optimism from students that the univeristy will respond. However, they have been sucessful in increasing the general receptiveness and engagement of the student body. The occupation has also been supported by a number of societies on campus and other universities.

3 comentários

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Convidado:
27 de mar.
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

So insightful.

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gos2011
27 de mar.
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

So refeshing it’s so interesting to here the consensus in the uk, I really hope the students stay strong, hope I stay strong atp


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Convidado:
27 de mar.
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Eye opening

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