Day 17 – The Struggle Continues

On its seventeenth day, our occupation is now not only the longest-running of this nationwide wave of pro-Palestinian occupations, but also the longest-running that Manchester University has seen for many decades.  As far as we are aware, the record was set in the 1980s when Manchester students occupied for 16 days, but we have now smashed this record and have no plans to leave any time soon.

Our numbers are still strong.  Over 50 people joined us last night (Thursday) for a party in the occupied space after Ilan Pappe’s talk.  During the day the numbers dwindle a bit, but we are consistently seeing 20-30 people spending the night with us.  The battle is long, but we are not tiring of it.

Despite our perseverance, the strength of our numbers, and our vast support from the student body, our Vice-Chancellor continues to ignore us.  The hard-line approach that he pursued when we occupied his boardroom in the John Owens building (which culminated in him threatening to expel the protesters if we did not vacate the building), has been dropped in favour of a policy of simply ignoring us, aside from the occasional, impersonal letter.  We have repeatedly offered to vacate the building temporarily if a firm timeline of negotiations is laid out; this offer has been refused.

Yet his peers at other universities across the UK, and even some in the USA, have agreed to meet a good proportion of their occupants’ demands, including scholarships for Palestinians and divestment from the arms trade.  This response has not been universal: Nottingham and Sheffield have draconically suppressed student protests over Gaza, forcibly removing occupiers or victimising them with suspensions, but the general precedent has been for Vice-Chancellors to respond favourably the occupiers’ demands.

So why, when we have arguably the strongest occupation undertaken by any university in recent months, have we had one of the most uncooperative responses?  Perhaps having his car torched by student activists in his previous job as Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University has given Gilbert a deep-rooted hatred of student activists.  Or maybe it is because he is arguably the most right-wing leader of any UK university at present.  Hicham Yezza offers an interesting insight in the Guardian, you can read it here.  Whatever the reason, Gilbert must know that we will not allow our movement to fizzle out, but instead will continue to build it further until our demands are met.

To this ends, we are planning to hold a demo on Wednesday 4th March, where we will invite activists from across the country to come to Manchester, to show our Vice-Chancellor that we mean business, but most importantly to show the world the new-found strength of the pro-Palestinian student movement.  Time and location are still to be confirmed (we’re still in the early planning stages), but put the date in your diary.

In addition to the national demo, we’ll be spending the weekend planning a range of small-scale stunts to be held next week, to help us keep up our presence, mobilise and involve ordinary students, and generally make the campus a more lively place to be.  Watch this space for more info closer to the time.

Sorry about our poor efforts at updating this blog – we’ll try harder from now on, we promise!  But we’re always spurred on by the support we receive from people outside of the occupation.  We know that hundreds of you are reading this blog every day.  It is your support on the outside that gives us our real strength.

And as always, if you’ve got a moment this weekend come down and join us for a chat, coffee or a bite to eat.  Everyone is welcome!  Just call Katan on 07917206282 and he can let you in.

May this movement continue until Palestine is free, from the river to the sea.

Viva Viva Palestina!

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3 Comments »

  1. Your actions are a real inspiration to all the people who care about justice. They are a magnificent contribution to the struggle for justice in Palestine. And I see that you have inspired students at St Andrews to follow your example. What about Salford Uni? Any signs of life there? Any contacts?

    Spread the occupations! DO SOMETHING FOR GAZA!!

    Why don’t you translate some of your blog posts into Arabic so that people in Palestine and the rest of the Arab world can follow your occupation?

  2. Manchester at heart of student rebellion

    by Siân Ruddick

    Students remain at the forefront of the movement in solidarity with the people of Palestine, with over 25 universities seeing occupations in the last few weeks.

    Millions of people were angered by Israel’s four week assault on Gaza that began on Boxing Day.

    The mass movement against that attack has inspired students at many different universities to take action. This has been the biggest wave of occupation in decades and many of them have won their demands.

    Manchester university has been at the heart of the resistance for the past two weeks.

    Students there occupied a lecture theatre on 4 February. They were still in occupation as Socialist Worker went to press.

    They are demanding, among other things, that the university withdraws its investment in companies involved in the arms trade and provides scholarships for Palestinian students so that they can attend the university.

    There have been two student union emergency general meetings (EGMs).

    Almost 1,000 students packed into two rooms at the most recent EGM on Wednesday of last week to debate a motion that laid out the occupation’s demands. This motion was passed overwhelmingly and mandated the student union to support and defend the occupation and its aims.

    This showed the huge support for the occupation on campus and helps protect student activists against the academic sanctions that university management has threatened.

    The movement against Israel’s siege of Gaza has brought many people into the anti-war movement.

    Adil Rahman, a second year student at Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “I supported the aims of the campaigns against war and for Palestine although I wasn’t active on campus last year.

    “But since Israel attacked Gaza I’ve been part of organising activities – not just helping out. Passing the motion has given us hope for the future.”

    Victoria Palazzo, a third year student, said, “It’s so tempting to make excuses not to be active and to study instead.

    “But how would we feel making excuses in five years’ time, when a lack of campaigning and solidarity could result in even more harsh circumstances for the Palestinian people.

    “My dissertation is looming but I’ll stay here until we win our demands. We’ll all continue to campaign when we’re out of occupation.

    “This is a mood that has spread across the country. I think everyone is beginning to stand up and think, ‘do I want to be complicit in this or not?’ It’s not just us, it’s everyone.

    “People shouldn’t be scared to stand up. We should remember that as long as we have numbers we are safe.”

    Adil added, “Some people say that our university is for education not politics. But our university has shares in arms manufacturing companies.

    “We can’t just let this continue. We have to do something about the war crimes against the Palestinians.”

    Management has resorted to security measures to try to end the occupation.

    It offered negotiations to the student union, but the union said it would not do a deal behind the occupation’s back after the EGM motion was passed.

    The students have taken part in political debates, organising meetings and film showings.

    The anti-Zionist Israeli historian Illan Pape is set to speak there on Thursday of this week.

    These activities help to open up the occupation to more people and can win wider layers of supporters.

  3. Pete Martin said

    A message from the fledgling occupation at St Andrews Uni – in our third day. Your occupation is an inspiration to all us occupiers here – don’t lose the faith and keep showing solidarity!!! Much love from your northern brothers 😀

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