Socialist Worker

Victory to the student movement for Gaza

Students from the occupation at the London School of Economics talk about their protest and how it relates to the wider movement

Issue No. 2134a

LSE

LSE's "Liberation Theatre" under students' control


Universities across Britain are aflame with fury and revulsion at Israeli war crimes in Gaza. At college after college students have occupied university buildings and won a series of demands in solidarity with the Palestinians.

At the London School of Economics (LSE) we drew strength to act in our own university from being part of the mass Stop the War protests over the last few years.

We launched a successful six-day occupation of the oldest lecture theatre on campus – taking direct action to pressure management to set up educational and medical programmes to help people in Gaza. We also demanded a more ethical investment policy to ensure that no LSE funds contributed to the Israeli war effort in any way.

This comes on the back of many years of anti-war activism and campaigning in solidarity with Palestine.

Last week we decided the situation demanded a more radical approach – we tabled our demands and won a vote in the students’ union.

We began with a sit-in occupation of the stage in the Old Theatre on campus and aimed to communicate our demands to every lecture that took place there.

We began a rolling programme of postering, leafleting and events throughout the day to draw attention to our protest. We even organised a 'Gig for Gaza' on the last day of the occupation.

Tony Benn, the president of the Stop the War Coalition, drew a crowd of over 300. MPs, academics and journalists came to speak about the situation in the Middle East.

LSE management became extremely worried and did everything they could to isolate us. They began by cancelling lectures in the 'Liberation Theatre'.

Security staff took up positions around the building to check student IDs and prevent members of the public from entering. This was a crude attempt to intimidate people and stop them joining us.

Nevertheless, we persisted through the highs and lows. There is a liberating feeling to taking direct action. In an occupation, people discuss strategy and tactics collectively and take often courageous actions together.

We also debated wider issues like imperialism and resistance.

Students drifted in and out – some who did not agree with us came to see why we were prepared to forego our own classes and lectures. Some accepted our arguments and joined the protest. Members of staff came frequently to express their support for our actions. By the weekend, it was clear to the management that any open moves against us would only attract negative attention.

Their refusal to engage with us was quietly dropped and several rounds of negotiations took place.

We quickly received guarantees that solidarity initiatives would be adopted at an official level.

We had bulldozed our way into the corridors of power.

Finally, the LSE director promised a statement in a personal capacity expressing concern with the humanitarian situation in Gaza. This was enough for us to proclaim victory and end the occupation.

We have sent a powerful message – people will not sit idly by while Gaza burns.

We will take direct action to break the link between Britain and apartheid Israel.


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