Pro-Palestine protests take over UK universities just days after police stormed US campuses

Pro-Palestine protests take over UK universities just days after police stormed US campuses

WATCH: Lauren Chen says the "woke left" has a "questionable alliance" with Palestine

GB News
James Saunders

By James Saunders

Published: 02/05/2024

- 07:48

Updated: 02/05/2024

- 08:10

Warwick University demonstrators called for people to 'rise up in unison with fellow students all over the world, from Columbia, NYC, to Paris, to Sydney'

Pro-Palestine student protesters have begun establishing camps at UK universities in an attempt to cause the same kind of sit-in disruption seen at American institutions over the last few days and weeks.

Students at top English universities - Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield - have set up tents and marquees, and have hoisted anti-Israel banners and Palestinian flags on buildings and in open spaces.

One of the encampments at a piazza at Warwick University has been in place for almost a week, with student campaign groups claiming Warwick is "continu[ing] to reject our demands to cut ties with genocide", and professing to "rise up in unison with fellow students all over the world, from Columbia, NYC, to Paris, to Sydney".

Many of the demonstrations have called for their universities to cut financial ties with Israel or Israeli companies in light of the country's ongoing military response in Palestine to the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Protesters at Warwick and Goldsmiths universities

Protesters at Goldsmiths, University of London, have staged sit-ins, while demonstrators at Warwick have established a week-long camp at a campus piazza


At Manchester, protests starting on May 1 have elicited official university responses; while the institution's Chief Operating Officer, Patrick Hackett, said it was "incredibly important that people are able to exercise free speech within the law", he urged protesters not to block access to study and work spaces with exams looming.

While at Goldsmiths, University of London, students established camps overnight at the university library and stuck banners to windows stating "from the river to the sea" and "shut it down for Palestine", claiming they would not leave "until senior management come to face us".

Yesterday's demonstrations followed large-scale "May Day" action across the UK which saw protesters blockade BAE Systems facilities and a government department over their ties to UK arms exports to Israel.

And the university encampments and sit-ins directly mirror those seen at institutions on the other side of the Atlantic; this week, activists camping out at UCLA in Los Angeles and Columbia University in New York have clashed with campus authorities and city police alike.


University protests

Demonstrations have broken out at universities in London (top left), Leeds (bottom left) and Bristol (right)


At Newcastle University, a protester told BBC News: "We've tried to be democratic since October 10, when activism on campus began, and since then, we've had no luck... So now, we've resorted to an indefinite encampment until the university will enter negotiations with us.

"What's happened at Columbia has obviously inspired us to a degree but we have been thinking about this for a while", he said, and added the police presence at student protests in the UK was "less heavy-handed generally than the US".

He said: "Thankfully we're able to have our free speech on campus to a degree... And we're able to have freedom of assembly."

Northumbria Police told BBC News there was "a proportionate policing presence" at the protest.

Protesters at Columbia/Encampment at UCLAColumbia University has received the most coverage for its protests, while similar encampments remain in place at UCLAReuters
\u200b\u200bClashes between protesters and police at UCLAClashes between protesters and police at UCLAReuters

Edward Isaacs, president of the Union of Jewish Students, said: "This year, Jewish students have been continually facing antisemitic hatred on campus. Since October 7, Jewish students have experienced an unprecedented volume of abuse and prejudice directed against them.

"As Jewish students begin their exams, their peers begin the term with calls to 'globalise the intifada', to support the Houthis in Yemen, and to not 'engage with Zionists'. While students have a right to protest, universities must be places where Jewish students can be as welcome as any other student."

A University of Bristol statement read: "Our role as a university is to cultivate a tolerant environment for the exchange of ideas, where divergent views can be discussed, whilst upholding and protecting freedom of speech on campus within the law.

"There is no place for any form of racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, discrimination, incitement, bullying or harassment at the University of Bristol. Any reports of such behaviour will be taken very seriously."

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