By Isabel Ringrose
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‘We occupied for Palestine, you should too’ say Goldsmiths students

The workplace and student day of action on 8 March is an opportunity for more occupations
Issue 2895
Goldsmiths univeristy students and staff sit in for Palestine in solidarity with the Goldsmiths occupation

Students and staff sit-in for Palestine at Goldsmiths University

Goldsmiths students in south London are leading the way for pro-Palestine action on campus. On Tuesday, a week after their occupation started, students held a rally on campus to demand the university recognises the genocide in Gaza, decolonises and cuts ties with Israel.

“We seized the opportunity,” student Samira told Socialist Worker. “The university can’t police our protests anymore.

“We’re constantly trying to build outwards and expand our occupation—we don’t want management to be able to ignore us. We want to shut down the whole university in a series of escalations until our demands are met.”

The 100-strong rally outside the Stuart Hall Building vowed to keep fighting against the university’s complicity. It included students from UAL, Soas and Goldsmiths UCU union members, 

The group then spontaneously marched through the Richard Hoggart Building for the first time and into its canteen. Other students and staff joined the lively protest and chanted. They then marched back to the occupation, where some students joined it for the first time. 

The students have told management that they wouldn’t meet until some of their demands were met. Management told the students it would be in touch at the beginning of this week.

On Tuesday, it said it was willing to hold a meeting—but still hadn’t met any of the students’ demands. The students in the occupation have taken over the ground floor of the Stuart Hall Building. They plan to expand to take over the entire building—and disrupt the university further.

The occupation is full of banners and posters about Palestine and Israel’s occupation and genocide, as well as a supplies corner and information wall. Students check-in at the start and end of every day, and hold an assembly at 4pm to organise themselves.  

There are daily teach-ins by lecturers, students and external guests, as well as music events, workshops, film screenings.

PHD student Marc, a member of the occupation, told Socialist Worker that the action has “been great so far”. “There’s been a fantastic amount of support from local people and staff,” he said. “We’ve created an atmosphere among students, and it feels really communal.

“It’s exciting. We’ve transformed this space into a democratic space, and it’s really brought the campus to life. There’s a hub of activity here.

“We’ve created a space to talk about Palestine and apartheid freely. One of our demands is revoking the IHRA definition of antisemitism to lift the fear from staff so they can discuss the real situation in Palestine.”

Marc said it’s getting to the point where the occupation is “running itself”. “We have a schedule and routine, and more people are taking on responsibility for booking events and organising what we need.”

Marc added that the students are trying to hold regular rallies to bring people into the occupation. “We also want to collaborate with other universities to share ideas about how we can escalate on campuses and create a forum for ideas,” he said.

“It’s also a way of increasing pressure on our own management team—people can see their complicity and lack of action. The best way to escalate is for other students to go into occupation.”

“Management is too comfortable,” Marc added. “We’re slightly out of the way from the rest of campus. If it continues to not listen to our demands, we will escalate. 

“We’ll look to expand our occupation in this building and disturb other buildings with things like banner drops. We’re not leaving any time soon.”

The student union called a general meeting on Tuesday. It discussed motions including one on defending the right for students to boycott. This is to protect students in the face of the Tories’ anti-boycott bill that stops local authorities, universities and pension funds from boycotting Israel.

Another motion called for solidarity with Palestinians under occupation, an immediate ceasefire and an end to the genocidal violence in Gaza.

It calls for a protection of students’ right to call Israel an apartheid state, divest from Israel and cut ties with any products on the boycott list.

“We want to pushback against repression on our campus, but also protect the right of students across Britain to protest for Palestine on their campuses,” Samira said. “But we don’t just want words from our student union—we want to make sure this turns into action.”

The occupation was also set to have a wider meeting later in the week to discuss how to take it forward and escalate. And students across London were organising to unite on Tuesday next week at a wider London assembly to discuss action for Palestine.

Teach-ins have been a key part of the student’s occupation. A teach-in on Tuesday morning discussed the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Jewish socialist Sophia led off, saying, “Racists use support for Israel as a get out of jail free card to be racist.

“Antisemitism is a real thing, and real racists use support for Israel as a get out of jail free card to spread their hate,” she said. “Zionism is a colonial project—you can’t have a left wing Zionism that includes Palestinian rights.

“It’s a political position. And the conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism has been ramped up in academia in the last 20 to 30 years to silence pro-Palestine voices and students.

“That’s why there’s been Jews standing against Zionism today and all the way back to the 1890s—you can’t fight for one group’s rights while trying to expel another.”

It’s not just the students who are angry at management. Marc is also a member of the UCU union. “Goldsmiths UCU struggles with management’s lack of listening to concerns—just like students,” he said. 

“It’s constantly trying to force through restructuring programmes leading to job cuts for staff. Admin systems are a mess so it means increased workloads for staff.”

Goldsmiths is currently embarking on another programme of 130 redundancies for academic staff. After a successful consultative ballot, Goldsmiths UCU members are now voting for strikes.

“It shows a complete lack of concern for students and staff. Cuts impact staff as well as students,” Marc added.

“Senior management delayed its announcement of redundancies because of the bad publicity it’s already getting around the occupation. If a strike happens there will be pickets outside and an occupation inside.

“Students and staff would support each other. These issues are all about management’s disregard for people at the university.  

“The occupation has shown that students can organise classes themselves, with the support of lecturers, and discuss when they want to talk about.”

The workplace and student day of action on 8 March is an opportunity for students to follow the lead form Goldsmiths and stage occupations. 

Samira says there’s basic things students can do to start an occupation. “You need a core group of organisers who want to occupy,” she explained. “Call a walkout and build members, and also hold teach-ins about Palestine. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“Storm a building to make people aware of your demands. Put your demands to the university management. Regular meetings, democracy and participation are crucial for an occupation. Then you need to hunker down—the university is your space.”

Samira said it’s important other students call occupations in the face of Israel’s brutal genocide in Gaza. “We need to pressure our institution—and the situation in Palestine demands action,

“It’s hard for us all as students to be ignored if there’s more of us speaking up and acting out.”

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