Pro-Palestine encampment on Leeds University campus removed after threat of legal action

The protest against the university’s ‘complicity’ on the situation in Gaza lasted 47 days

The student encampment on University of Leeds campus in support of Palestine has ended after 47 days after the uni launched legal proceedings to obtain a possession order.

Student organisations announced earlier this week that the encampment “reached its end” but that demonstrations and occupations would “be back in September” to continue protesting for an end to the conflict in Palestine.

Celebrating the encampment’s successes, Leeds Students Against Apartheid Coalition thanked students and supporters, as well as over 30 societies who expressed support for the Palestinian cause as a result of the encampment’s efforts.

Student Rebellion Leeds and Leeds Students Against Apartheid Coalition announced the end of the encampment on Monday.

In a statement shared to Instagram, the student Coalition described how the encampment held cultural and educational events, as well as organised walkouts, marches and vigils in protest against the university’s “complicity” and in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Celebrating the occupation’s successes, the Coalition explained how the encampment resulted in more meetings with the University Executive group (UEG) and successfully demonstrated the solidarity of the students with Palestine: “Our ability to escalate actions after eight months of non-stop protesting is a testament of the movement’s strength and resilience.”

But despite its achievements, the Coalition claimed that “the University [of Leeds] remains complicit in settler colonialism and the devastating violence it wrought.”

The statement read: “The UEG continues to hide behind the excuse of political neutrality to resist any effort to end its complicity, while committing fully to partnering with institutions and individuals responsible for the mass slaughtering of Palestinians.”

Speaking of the university’s stance as being a “choice”, the Coalition also described how the decisions of members on the UEG board would be remembered throughout history: “It is a political choice to be materially involved with genocide and apartheid, just as it is a political choice to brutalise and surveil students, to collaborate with police in gathering information about protestors.

The hypocritical and cowardly manner in which the UEG has responded to this genocide will be a permanent stain in the university’s history.”

Announcing that the end of the encampment is only the beginning of the student movement, the Coalition declared that it will be back in September “stronger” as it believes that “the university will have only gotten worse.”

It also criticised the UEG for its failure to adequately address its political standing: “No doubt the UEG will not have taken any serious action in addressing its complicity in genocides, for it will continue to prioritise profits over the lives of Palestinians, students, and workers.”

A University of Leeds spokesperson said: “We know that many in our community are distressed and directly impacted by the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, and we will continue to provide support for all students through our wellbeing and counselling services as well as the Students’ Union.

“We have been diligent in our upholding of free speech, alongside the rights of students, staff, and visitors to go about their business unimpeded and free from intimidation.

“Facilitated by Leeds University Union, our University Executive Group members and senior leaders have met with representatives of the encampment to maintain dialogue and listen to their concerns.

“However, after six weeks of protest, occupation and disruption, we  commenced legal proceedings to obtain a possession order. We welcome the camp’s decision to end the encampment voluntarily.”

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Featured image via Instagram @leedspsg @rachelolearly_