In response to the destruction of Gaza, students across England have mobilized themselves, occupying university buildings in solidarity with Palestine. Among studentsâ demands are assistance to Palestinian students, official condemnation of recent attacks and various forms of BDS. Students have been incredibly successful in raising awareness, and a few have led to university administrations heeding some of their demands.
***image3***The protests began on 13 January, when a group of students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) occupied the Brunei gallery on campus in solidarity with Gaza, as well as in protest of the space being used to show a Ministry of Defense exhibit. Similar occupations occurred soon after, first in the London School of Economics (LSE) and Kings College London. As of 25 January, students at 17 universities across England have staged occupations, including Cambridge, Essex, Oxford, Sussex, Birmingham, both Manchester and Manchester MET, Warwick, Newcastle, Leeds, Kingston, Salford, Bristol, and Nottingham.
Student activist groups have varied in size from 15 â 20 people to larger groups of more than 100. Some occupations are ongoing, and those that have ended have ranged from a few days to a week, during which time students have held various speakers, demonstrations and awareness raising activities.
Each occupation has issued similar demands. Groups have unanimously demanded aid and assistance for Palestinian students, including scholarships and the donation of materials to universities in Gaza. Students have also called on their respective universities to issue official condemnation of the attack on Gaza. Furthermore, nearly every group has taken up some form of the BDS call. Many groups are calling for university divestment from arms manufactures, most prominently BAE, who are arming and profiting from the actions of the Occupation army. Many universities have also called for a boycott of Israeli products.
Students have witnessed a number of successes. In addition to generating debate within the various campuses and communities, students are waging an effective media campaign via blogs and social networking websites. This has led to a significant amount of media coverage in both national and international media. In several instances, students ended their occupations after university administrators agreed to meet some of their demands. Over 100 students ended their occupation of the Clarendon building after university officials agreed to student demands on 22 January. After a 7-day occupation, the students at LSE also claimed victory when LSE agreed to assist Palestinian students and consider a divestment-based ethical investment policy.
Other actions have been met by resistance from university officials. Students at Birmingham were evicted by police a day into their occupation. At Manchester MET, officials initially tried to end the demonstration by preventing food from entering the occupied building.
Unsurprisingly, university officials across the board refuse to engage in BDS. Even at LSE, whose administration has so far been the most accommodating, officials have refused to divest from BAE or to publish financial statements detailing LSE investments in companies involved in supplying arms to Israel.
However, despite the intransigence of university administrators about divestment and boycott, the mass mobilization will certainly provide a boost to the growing BDS campaign. The students have vowed to continue to work until their universities no longer contribute to the ongoing occupation of Palestine, a signal that the BDS movement is gaining strength in the UK.
Kings College London: https://kcloccupation.blogspot.com/
Manchester MET: https://mmuoccupation.blogspot.com/