Posted by: Lister | January 22, 2009

Solidarity Occupations

The Guardian writes about King’s College London student “sit-in”:

Students at King’s College London are staging a sit-in protest on campus over the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza and the honorary doctorate bestowed on the Israeli president, Shimon Peres.

In the latest of a flurry of occupations at English universities in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza, more than 100 students took over a lecture theatre in the university yesterday.

Kings students are demanding that the university issue a formal statement condemning Israel’s bombing of Gaza and revoke the honorary doctorate Peres was awarded in November last year.

[…] They added: “It is important to note that there have not been university occupations like this since the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s.”

They’re also asking for 5 scholarships to Gaza students, fund-raising and donations of unwanted educational material/equipment.

Over the last week, students have held occupations in five other universities: the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics, Essex, Birmingham and Sussex.

blogs for protests at: Sussex University, LSE, King’s College London, SOAS, Warwick.

The Independent reported the LSE sit-in.

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Responses

  1. The LSE students say that they have not disrupted lectures:

    We wish to make it clear that we have at no point disrupted lectures. We have sat on the stage during lectures and given short speeches before they begin. Lectures have then been allowed to continue as normal. LSE Director Howard Davies noted that we have “held scrupulously” to our promise to allow lectures to proceed.

  2. Desmond Tutu‘s letter to King’s College:

    Dear Friends,
    Thank you for your communication. I have emailed Prof Trainor to obtain his side of the story.That will determine my next step.

    God bless you in your stand for justice,
    Desmond Tutu.

  3. Avi Shlaim supports Warwick:

    To the Students of Warwick:

    These are very dark days for the Palestinians. The savage Israeli assault on them has ended but the occupation has not. I salute you on the brave stand you have taken on behalf of the people of Gaza. Keep up the struggle for justice for the Palestinians!
    All good wishes
    Avi Shlaim

    Avi Shlaim, FBA
    Professor of International Relations
    St Antony’s College
    Oxford OX2 6JF

    They also have support from Manchester TUC and, on another page, Tony Benn.

  4. The occupation spreads to Oxford.

    In fact, in a post titled Victory, the Oxford blog says they have reached an agreement with university officials.

  5. LSE claims victory:

    Following negotiations between the students and the university, LSE Director and former head of the UK Financial Services Authority Howard Davies will now make a public statement about Israeli bombing of academic institutions.

    The LSE had already agreed to waiver application fees and provide scholarships for application fees for students affected by the Israeli Occupation and to facilitate a charity collection for Medical Aid for Palestine.

    […] Over 350 students heard a public lecture in the occupied theatre by Tony Benn in support of the occupation on Friday. Other notable speakers included George Galloway, Lindsey German and Jews for Justice member Dan Judelson. Mira Hammad, one of the occupying students, spoke to a crowd of 10,000 at Trafalgar Square to urge other universities to take part.

    Davies’ comment is one of understanding the students’ concerns, rather than agreeing to condemn Israel’s attacks.

    Michael Deas, a third-year environmental policy student involved in the occupation, said: “We’re delighted with the result, although nothing we could have done would ever have been enough. It’s a real victory for student activism, particularly forcing the director into making a statement.

    I think the scholarship help is probably more effective.

  6. Oxford plans to release full details of their ‘victory’ soon.

    Meanwhile, the occupation has spread to Cambridge.

    Cambridge University students are staging an occupation in solidarity with the people of Gaza, Israeli peace movements and students taking action in this country.

    The Guardian list 16 other universities which are occupied.

    Over the last week, a storm of student protests has gathered over 16 universities across England, suggesting that students are awakening from the political apathy of which they are often accused. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye of ageing sixties radicals.

    Starting at the School of Oriental and African Studies, occupations in protest at events in Gaza spread to King’s College London and the London School of Economics (LSE), then out of the capital to Sussex, Warwick, Newcastle, Oxford, Essex, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan, Bristol, Nottingham, Salford, and Kingston.

    […] Simon Englert, 19, a second-year English literature and drama student from Belgium, is a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign on campus and one of the instigators of the 100-strong occupation. “It’s important for Universities to take a stand on this. We are told in history about the central role that students play in defending causes. So that is what we are doing today,” he says. “We invited LSE students along to our meeting and they helped to inspire this action.”

    […] A handful of Jewish students are involved in the protest, including Englert. “I don’t want to make a big thing about it,” he says, “but Israel doesn’t speak for the world’s Jewish community.”

    […] At the LSE, veteran campaigner and politician Tony Benn told students: “I don’t believe in protesting, because that looks like you’ve lost the battle and don’t like it. I believe in making demands. This is more important than you realise at the moment, but when people get together and do something, that’s when history is changed.”

    The numbers involved are a tiny proportion of the 2.5 million-strong UK student body, but they appear to speak for many more, and to have caught a wider mood.

    […] King’s students see the university occupations as a resurgence of the kind of action that took place during the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s.

    The zenith of British student political activism in the 1960s does not warrant a mention now, not even the protest by LSE students against Ian Smith’s regime in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), let alone those in 1968. Presumably for today’s students, many of whom were born in the early 1990s, the sixties are ancient history.

    […] All the occupying students have issued similar demands: a statement from their vice-chancellor condemning the Israeli bombing of Gaza; severing university investment or links with companies supplying equipment used in the conflict; sending surplus computers and books to students in Gaza; scholarships for Gazan students – and no repercussions for their activism.

    King’s students also want the university to remove the honorary degree it bestowed on Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, last November. In Oxford, students occupying the historic Clarendon building called on Balliol College to cancel a lecture series in Peres’s honour.

    […] In recent months, student activists have not limited themselves to sit-in protests over Gaza. They have boycotted careers fairs over university links with companies of which they disapprove – distributing badges, draping banners over displays and even dumping bags of coal to make their point.

  7. Queen Mary University.

  8. Statement from Senior Proctor, Oxford University, via the occupied Oxford blog.

    1. Free speech. The University believes in free speech and in the right in a democratic society to lawful protest. As Senior Proctor, I cannot condone the occupation of a University building. This is a University offence; but I welcome the fact that this protest was peaceful and good-natured.

    2. The Vice-Chancellor’s letter expresses concern for the recent conflict in the Middle East and for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It also notes the recent statement of the President of Universities UK supporting ‘calls for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza’. It is regrettable that many civilian casualties occurred in educational establishments.

    3. It was agreed that efforts to attract endowments to fund scholarships at Oxford for the most academically talented Palestinian students, to help lessen some of the obstacles to education that now prevail, would be welcome.

    4. There is also agreement that help might be offered to restore the damaged educational infrastructure, as it would elsewhere, by making available surplus books, journals and other educational materials and resources. This should be done in consultation with academic colleagues in Gaza so as to ensure that appropriate materials might be provided.

    5. As Senior Proctor, I have now written to the Master of Balliol drawing his attention to the protestors’ concerns about the proposed title of the lecture series inaugurated by Shimon Peres.

    6. I have decided to raise in Council the concerns regarding possible University investments in arms manufacturers and ask whether the University’s policy of socially responsible investment is being adhered to.

    7. Lastly and additionally I report that I have received representations from academic colleagues who have volunteered their time to help teach in Gaza and help during the restoration of university facilities there.

  9. Blogs for the occupations at Sheffield Hallam and Nottingham.

  10. Parliamentary motion, tabled by Jeremy Corbyn. Via the Cambridge solidairty blog:

    That this House praises the wave of student occupations across the country against Israel’s unlawful invasion and bombing of Gaza; regrets that an estimated thousand Palestinians have been killed as a direct result of the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza with many more people injured and suffering ongoing hardship; and welcomes the engagement of young people in protesting against the unfolding human tragedy in Gaza by taking direct action at numerous institutions including Cambridge University, Essex University, Kings College London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Oxford University, Queen Mary University London and Sussex University.

  11. Nottingham Occupiers evicted by force. Shame.

  12. Students from Sheffielf Hallam suspended.

  13. Via one of the above blogs (Darn it, I forgot which), here’s the EDM mentioned above.

    Also,
    Manchester is occupied. As is Strathclyde. The latter have already done a victory lap.

  14. Regarding Strathclyde’s victory, they say:

    Andrew Hamnett has conceded the following:

    “1. We will not place any further orders with Eden Springs for operational reasons.

    Eden Springs is an Israeli water company, which sells water from the occupied Golan Heights.

    There’s an old petition asking for Eden Springs to be kicked off Campus.

  15. Via Warwick, I found an article in the Independent. Alongside 60’s flashbacks, they include a summary:

    Beginning with a 24-hour occupation at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on 13 January, the sit-ins spread across the country. Now occupations have been held at the LSE, Essex, King’s College London, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Nottingham, Queen Mary, Manchester, Strathclyde, Newcastle, Kingston, Goldsmiths and Glasgow.

    Other topics are also the focus of student actions — including a demo against tuition fees.

  16. University of Rochester declares victory after less than 9 hour occupation. They’ve won an agreement to help Gaza University.

  17. Edinburgh has been occupied.

  18. Mark Steel:

    “The bloody youth of today; they’ve no disrespect for authority. In my day you started chanting and if a copper gave you any lip you gave him a clip round the ear, and he didn’t do it again. We’ve lost those values somehow.”

  19. Victory in Cardiff:

    The occupation of Cardiff University has ended with success as Cardiff University acceded to the occupiers’ key demand – to divest from the arms trade. Cardiff University have given students written confirmation that they have divested from the arms trade and have instructed fund managers not to reinvest.

    […] The victory comes after three days of occupation which has made students across the campus aware of the £209, 000 worth of shares which, until yesterday, Cardiff University held in the arms trade. This included BAE Systems and General Electric who supplied Israel with weapons used in the recent attacks on Gaza.


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