UK students begin Gaza protests after “horrifying” arrests at US universities

UK students begin Gaza protests after “horrifying” arrests at US universities

University students across the UK have embarked on a fresh wave of demonstrations, following the “horrifying” arrests of those protesting in support of Gaza in the US.

Various protests have already been held across the UK, with students across the country walking out of university in a show of solidarity with Palestine. There have also been calls for their universities to sever ties with firms that supply arms to Israel and withdraw links to universities in Israel.

Over the recent months, it has been the demonstrations in the UK capital that have gathered the most widespread support and media attention, however, the protests in other cities are set to attract more support following the violent scenes from US campuses including Columbia University.

The incidents across America have taken place over recent days, where those protesting in support of Gaza have been faced with aggression and many have been arrested by authorities.

The Hamilton Hall academic building was occupied by students in a bid to pressure Columbia University to divest from Israel. The Gaza Solidarity protest encampment that had been set up on Columbia’s main lawn for nearly two weeks, before it was raided by the NYPD and dismantled on Tuesday night (April 30). Many students were arrested.

As highlighted by The Guardian, a lecturer at Columbia Law School called Bassam Khawaja said that he was “horrified to see Columbia invite police onto our campus for the second time this month to arrest our students”.

New York Police Department officers detain dozens of pro-Palestinian students at Columbia University after they barricaded themselves at the Hamilton Hall building near Gaza Solidarity Encampment earlier in New York, United States on April 30, 2024. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Since the arrests, both faculty and non-resident students have been prevented from entering campus, and the scenes at the university have sparked a new sense of anger among UK students – with a shared sense of solidarity leading to more protests being planned.

Speaking with The Guardian, David Maguire – the vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia (UEA) – explained how protests at UK universities have been generally peaceful, but could easily escalate into scenes similar to those in the US.

Among those planning demonstrations are students, staff and alumni from the universities of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam, who form a group called the Sheffield Campus Coalition for Palestine, and have already begun an encampment in solidarity with the people in Gaza.

An encampment is also being held at the University of Warwick, which has been going on since last week, as well as one in Newcastle, which is said to include over 40 students.

For the latter, organisers stated that students were left outraged after the university reportedly signed a partnership with Leonardo SpA – a defence and security company which they claim is responsible for the laser-targeting system used in the Israel Defense Forces’ F-35 fighter jets.

Elsewhere, there was a May Day student walkout in Leeds in solidarity with Palestine, students in Bristol established an encampment in Royal Fort Gardens, and the University of York revealed that it “no longer holds investments in companies that primarily make or sell weapons and defence-related products or services”.

Tents are seen set up by protesters outside the University of Manchester during the rally. Student protests and encampments have erupted at universities in the United Kingdom in solidarity with the conflict in Gaza, following similar demonstrations at universities in the United States. (Photo by Andy Barton/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The statement from the University of York came following prolonged pressure and demonstrations from staff, students and alumni since the beginning of the war in Gaza.

As well as demonstrations across London, it is students in Manchester that have also been making waves in support for Palestinians, as reports have emerged that 50 students have set up camp in a push to get the university to terminate its partnership with BAE Systems and other arms companies. The movement in Manchester also aims to make the university sever its ties with Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as stop all “unethical research”.

Speaking with the outlet, a spokesperson for Universities UK – which represents the voice of over  140 institutions – stated: “Universities are monitoring the latest news on campus protests in the US and Canada. As with any high-profile issue, universities work hard to strike the right balance between ensuring the safety of all students and staff, including preventing harassment, and supporting lawful free speech on campus. We continue to meet regularly to discuss the latest position with university leaders.”

Solidarity with Palestine has been seen in the run-up to the 2024 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest too, with countless artists signing petitions to have Israel removed from the competition, and pressure being put on UK representative Olly Alexander to boycott the event.

Olly Alexander onstage during the London Eurovision Party 2024 at Outernet London on April 07, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Last year, Alexander was one of many who signed a pro-Palestine letter, calling Israel an “apartheid state” and accusing it of genocide,, however, he recently confirmed that he will still be taking part in the event as a boycott “wouldn’t bring us any closer to our shared goal”.

The 2024 edition will be hosted in Malmö, Sweden – the hometown of last year’s winner Loreen – on Saturday, May 11. At time of writing, Israel is set to take part as planned, but revealed earlier this month that it had changed the lyrics to their song.

Their entry, ‘October Rain’ by Eden Golan, appeared to contain references to the victims of Hamas’ October 7 attacks. Initially, Israel threatened to withdraw from the competition if any changes were to be made to the lyrics. However, a call from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for “necessary adjustments”  to ensure Israel’s participation prompted their public broadcaster KAN to agree to amend the song.

The post UK students begin Gaza protests after “horrifying” arrests at US universities appeared first on NME.

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