By Thomas Foster
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2912

Students speak on success of the university encampments

Students who took over parts of their campuses are assessing what comes next as term ends.
Issue 2912
'University of Palestine'—Cardiff students will encamp over summer

‘University of the Palestinian people’. Cardiff students hope to stay in an encampment over the summer

Student encampments for Palestine have shown the scale of rage against institutional complicity with the Israeli regime.

Students have escalated the pro-Palestine movement. They intensified confrontation with the state and broke from its imperialist ideology production, fighting for universities to divest from companies that prop up Israeli apartheid and genocide.

As universities break for summer, a number of encampments remain in Britain but some have also stopped.

The Cardiff encampment started on 15 May and some 30 students are continuing over the summer. Kirsty, an active student at Cardiff, told Socialist Worker, “Our summer plans are continuing the encampment in whatever way we can. We will do our best to keep that steadfastness regardless of our university term being over soon.”

She added, “We are staying for as long as we can because Cardiff university is simply not listening to our demands. It has shown an excellent commitment to side-tracking negotiations and feigning ignorance.

“We will not stop until real progress is made in divesting from the genocide in Palestine.”

And Kirsty argued that keeping up the struggle on campus is vital. “We are at a momentous point in the Palestine liberation movement.

“The genocide is becoming more despicable than ever before. We need to strengthen our efforts to protect the rights and livelihoods of all Palestinians.”

Kirsty said one of the crucial lessons learnt from the encampment was the strength of solidarity.

“Being here for each other and working towards a common goal has united us in the strongest way imaginable.

“It has shown that we can fight against the division we all have to face day after day and stand up together.” The Leeds student encampment ended two weeks ago after 47 days, understandably deciding that amid decreasing numbers it was best to regroup in September.

Issy, a student involved in the Leeds occupation, said it showed her “the importance of organising”.

“On campus, we are a diverse group with lots of different views. It’s through organising that we can achieve our demands,” she told Socialist Worker.

“Students now have systems in place to help us mobilise.” She added that action “showed the importance of the wider community. We had a lot of support during our 47 days that helped to ensure our movement was part of a wider movement.

“It meant we could push our actions to be more radical and successful than they would have been if we were isolated.

“We are in a much better place to intervene now. We’ve got a presence on campus that other students know about and more people willing to take action.”

And Issy talked about how the Leeds student movement had expanded.

“We continued to bring in a wider layer of activists and get new people involved even in the last few days of our action.”

Issy also said that struggle from below must continue “regardless of the election result”.

“University institutions will still be upholding the systems of oppression that our government enforces.

“And the Palestinians will likely still be under Israel’s genocide. Our struggle will remain as long as the situation remains the same.”

Issy described the mood among students when they decided to leave. “A lot of us were of course sad but also held an optimistic attitude about what we can do in the future.

“The encampments worldwide have inspired a range of people to act against their institutions.

“This is just the start. As students we want to try and detonate more people to rise up against the system.”


Portsmouth students end occupation after expanding activist base

Portsmouth students decided to end their encampment recently after over a month.

Matthew, a student at Portsmouth university, told Socialist Worker, “The encampment showed there’s a lot of support in the fight for Palestinian freedom and it revolutionised our network of activists.

“We met as many people who wanted to get stuck in to pro-Palestine campaigning in a month as we had throughout the whole academic year, including a lot of people we’d never seen involved in activism before.”

The encampment “helped to politicise people who hadn’t previously been engaged, turning them into activists”.

“There was a high level of political education and development—it has developed our confidence and our politics,” he added.

“At the start of the year we were concerned about calling a walkout, but the encampment has expanded our confidence and showed us what we are capable of.”

Matthew explained that the students had decided to decamp because “our numbers were diminishing”.

“We wound down and are going to save our energy for next year.

“We’ve got a bigger group of people and in September we will restart the fight even stronger.”

He said a plan was already in place for the new academic year in September.

“We want to bring the people we already have around us, get in touch with all the new students and hit the ground running.

“The university is still complicit in the genocide of Palestinians. We want to ramp up the pressure. The university can divest and should divest.”

The student encampments are one of the most dynamic aspects of the Palestine movement.

Whether they are continuing over summer or winding down, the impact they have had, and will continue to have, should be celebrated.

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