Socialist Worker

Manchester at heart of student rebellion

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2139

Students remain at the forefront of the movement in solidarity with the people of Palestine, with over 25 universities seeing occupations in the last few weeks.

Millions of people were angered by Israel’s four week assault on Gaza that began on Boxing Day.

The mass movement against that attack has inspired students at many different universities to take action. This has been the biggest wave of occupation in decades and many of them have won their demands.

Manchester university has been at the heart of the resistance for the past two weeks.

Students there occupied a lecture theatre on 4 February. They were still in occupation as Socialist Worker went to press.

They are demanding, among other things, that the university withdraws its investment in companies involved in the arms trade and provides scholarships for Palestinian students so that they can attend the university.

There have been two student union emergency general meetings (EGMs).

Almost 1,000 students packed into two rooms at the most recent EGM on Wednesday of last week to debate a motion that laid out the occupation’s demands. This motion was passed overwhelmingly and mandated the student union to support and defend the occupation and its aims.

This showed the huge support for the occupation on campus and helps protect student activists against the academic sanctions that university management has threatened.

The movement against Israel’s siege of Gaza has brought many people into the anti-war movement.

Adil Rahman, a second year student at Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “I supported the aims of the campaigns against war and for Palestine although I wasn’t active on campus last year.

“But since Israel attacked Gaza I’ve been part of organising activities – not just helping out. Passing the motion has given us hope for the future.”

Victoria Palazzo, a third year student, said, “It’s so tempting to make excuses not to be active and to study instead.

“But how would we feel making excuses in five years’ time, when a lack of campaigning and solidarity could result in even more harsh circumstances for the Palestinian people.

“My dissertation is looming but I’ll stay here until we win our demands. We’ll all continue to campaign when we’re out of occupation.

“This is a mood that has spread across the country. I think everyone is beginning to stand up and think, ‘do I want to be complicit in this or not?’ It’s not just us, it’s everyone.

“People shouldn’t be scared to stand up. We should remember that as long as we have numbers we are safe.”

Adil added, “Some people say that our university is for education not politics. But our university has shares in arms manufacturing companies.

“We can’t just let this continue. We have to do something about the war crimes against the Palestinians.”

Management has resorted to security measures to try to end the occupation.

It offered negotiations to the student union, but the union said it would not do a deal behind the occupation’s back after the EGM motion was passed.

The students have taken part in political debates, organising meetings and film showings.

The anti-Zionist Israeli historian Illan Pape is set to speak there on Thursday of this week.

These activities help to open up the occupation to more people and can win wider layers of supporters.

A national demonstration will take place on Wednesday 25 February in central London to link up student campaigns and demand free education for all. Go to » www.anothereducationispossible.org.uk for details


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News
Tue 17 Feb 2009, 18:16 GMT
Issue No. 2139
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