Manchester students set up encampment on Brunswick Park in pro-Palestine protest

Students are calling for the University of Manchester University to cut ties to Israeli universities and arms companies

Pro-Palestine protestors set up an encampment on Manchester University’s Brunswick Park yesterday, on May 1st.

Tents, banners and flags have been put up on the green, with students planning on staying “until the university listens to their demands”.

The occupation is another in a series of protests against the university’s stance on the situation in Israel and Palestine, with a focus on the University of Manchester’s involvement with the Israeli universities.

The encampment on Brunswick Park

Joe*, a spokesperson for the protestors explained the encampment is aiming to pressure the university into adhering to the following demands:

  1. For the University of Manchester to cut ties with arms companies.
  2. For the University to cut ties with Israeli universities
  3. For the university to institute a proper ethical research policy.
  4. For no students to face disciplinary action for taking part in the encampment or for their involvement in past occupations.

He explained that the protestors “want to stay in the encampment until [their] demands are met” and how “it is a democratically run camp, so it is up to the members how long that will be”.

The encampment includes rows of tents and gazebos as well as a banner welcoming you into the “MCR camp of resistance 4 Palestine”, with other banners displaying phrases such as “UOM blood on your hands” and “UOM supports Israeli Genocide, Free Palestine!”. Food, welfare and sleeping arrangements had also been set up within the camp.

Banners on display at the front of the encampment

When asked about why the encampment was set up, Joe said that there has been momentum for this protest for some time. He explained that “this didn’t spring up out of nowhere” as students have “been doing occupations around these same demands since October”.

Joe also referenced the ongoing encampments on university campuses around the world as another reason for this protest, explaining how “a lot of momentum has been gained in the U.S, a lot of momentum has been gained in other universities around our country and in Europe”.

He further stated that this action is a part of their efforts in “pushing forward and escalating” and how they “won’t stop until the university listens to their demands”.

The University of Manchester released a statement, where Chief Operating Officer, Patrick Hackett, expressed the “importance” of exercising free speech within the law, but also recognising respect towards different opinions.

He wrote: “We fully recognise the right of students and staff to protest within the law, however, setting up camp in a city campus raises potential health and safety concerns, risks disruption to staff, students and our wider community and ultimately is an unauthorised and unlawful use of the University’s campus.

“We are also very aware that this is a vital time of year for many students taking a range of exams and assessments. You can be assured that we will do everything possible to maintain business as usual and we urge protestors to act accordingly. We are very conscious of the need to ensure that everyone on our campus remains safe and secure and this will be of utmost importance.”

Directing part of the statement to protesting students, he wrote: “To anyone in the protest group or thinking of congregating around it: It is the responsibility of everyone to maintain the normal working of the university for everyone who calls it home.

“People must still be able to access their places of work and study, especially given the proximity to exams and assessments for many, and already a time of stress for some. Our campus support and security colleagues are continuing to monitor the situation, and will work to make sure everyone is safe, and can go about their normal business. We also ask for consideration of our local community, recognising that this is a public right of way.”

A BAE Systems’ spokesperson said: “The ongoing violence in the Middle East is having a devastating impact on civilians in the region and we hope the parties involved find a way to end the violence as soon as possible. We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully. We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment.”

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