Protestors ‘rename’ UCL Student Centre honouring Palestinian alumnus killed in Gaza

Demonstrators dropped banners which read “The Dr Refaat Alareer Student Centre” before being removed from the building

Students activists “renamed” the UCL Student Centre the “Refaat Alareer Student Centre” today in honour of the Palestinian alumnus and poet who was killed last December by an Israeli airstrike.

The move was part of a protest staged by UCL Action for Palestine, using megaphones to condemn the university’s ongoing neutrality and demand action. Other protestors dropped flyers and banners from higher floors of the building, with messages honouring Alareer and condemning UCL’s “complicity” in the ongoing situation in Israel and Palestine.

The protestors were forced to leave the Student Centre as campus security officers reportedly threatened to call the police.

In addition to “renaming” the building, demonstrators led the crowd in pro-Palestine chants, recited Refaat Alareer’s poem “If I must Die”, and read aloud a list of names of university-aged victims in Gaza.

UCL security officers arrived quickly on the scene, asking organisers to move the protest to the Main Quad – despite initial refusal, these calls were eventually heeded after guards allegedly threatened to call the police.

Amna Ghaffar, one of the demonstration’s organisers, told The London Tab that the symbolic “renaming” today was a response to UCL’s refusal to acknowledge Dr Refaat’s death.

She said: “We have taken it upon ourselves to officially rename the Student Centre after Dr. Refaat. This is something that we are doing because the university fails and refuses to take action time and time again. They have still not put out a statement acknowledging the assassination of Dr Refaat, let alone creating a memorial for him.”

Today’s demonstration marked the latest in a wave of protests organised by UCL Action for Palestine, who take issue with the university’s stated position of neutrality on the situation in Israel and Palestine and their failure to issue a statement honouring Refaat Alareer.

It was part of a wider range of events across the country as part of the “National Day of Student Action.”

UCL security guards speak to a protestor

It was part of a wider range of events across the country as part of the “National Day of Student Action.”

UCL security guards speak to a protestor

Speakers today also reiterated demands made in prior protests. Amna re-stated the movement’s three core demands of UCL – to end censorship of pro-Palestine action on campus, to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and to cut ties with all arms companies.

She criticised UCL’s refusal to heed or acknowledge these calls, despite repeated demonstrations on campus.

Amna told The London Tab: “We don’t feel that our voices are being heard. Any time we’ve done an action, a single UCL spokesperson gives the same copy and pasted statement of political neutrality, and they’ve been doing that again and again.”

One organiser, who wished to remain anonymous, decried the “university’s complicity in the genocide in Gaza.” Referring to alleged “extreme censorship”, she claimed that “students feel unsafe to speak about Palestine.”

The flyers dropped in the Student Centre also accused UCL of being complicit in war crimes: “What does UCL have to do with Genocide: Academic ties with an Apartheid state.”

The leaflets also called on UCL to cut ties with Israeli universities and drew comparisons between boycotting Israel and boycotting South Africa under apartheid.

Despite UCL’s muted response to recent protests, Amna reaffirmed the resilience of the movement and its growing numbers, including staff, undergraduate and postgraduate students.

She described her hopes for the future of the Palestinian movement at UCL as “consistent, with a lot of people from different ages, different backgrounds doing what we’re doing again and again.”

Another organiser echoed the commitment to continued action, saying: “We’ll continue to demand that our university end their censorship of Palestinian voices on campus and that they join the global demand for a ceasefire.”

A UCL spokesperson said:

“We recognise the deep and ongoing pain that is being felt by those in our community in light of the enduring suffering in Gaza and Israel. We are continuing work to support students and staff who are affected by the conflict.”

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