Palestine protest: Goldsmiths students occupy media building 

Picture of the occupation at the Professor Stuart Hall building
Students outside the two lecture halls they occupy. Pic:@gold4palestine

Scores of students at Goldsmiths, University of London, have started occupying part of a building to protest the college’s response to Israel’s war in Gaza.  

The occupation of the two largest lecture halls on the lower ground floor of the Professor Stuart Hall building, where most of the media and communications teaching takes place, started on February 20 after hundreds of students marched through the campus in the morning and finished at the media building.  

The protestors, who belong to a group called Goldsmiths for Palestine, carried out the march and the occupation despite threats by the college’s security staff, who warned that they would not be allowed in.  

The students also issued an open letter to Goldsmiths’s senior management on the same day the occupation started.

They wrote: “Whilst calling for a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ marks a positive step, there is no naming of the genocide being perpetrated by the Israeli state on the Palestinian people. 

“The misleading term ‘Middle East crisis’ fails to name the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. 

“Your failure to use more decisive, articulate and compassionate language to describe the ongoing and well-documented Nakba in Gaza is received in such a way that is at least ineffectual as well as patronising to all those concerned.” 

Goldsmithsforpalestine on Instagram.

Protesters included both Goldsmiths students and students from other universities. Banners and flags were hung across the stair bannisters as they settled at the bottom floor of the building. One of these banners included their five demands to the university.

The protesters plan to camp for weeks at the location, refusing to move until they are satisfied with a response from the university. 

The Warden and senior management members visited the group on its first day of the protest and spent “45 minutes answering questions”, according to an email from the college to staff on February 23.  

A spokesperson for Goldsmiths, University of London, told Eastlondonlines: “From the beginning of the conflict, the College’s leadership team has prioritised the wellbeing and safety of all our students and staff while calling for our community to speak and act in ways which hold at the centre the human pain, loss and suffering being experienced in the ongoing crisis. 

“While recognising it is not able to speak on behalf of all our community, the College’s leadership team has condemned the disregard shown for the fundamental human rights of Israeli and Palestinian civilians.  

“In a statement shared with all students and staff, the leadership team has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages and said that ending the war and finding meaningful peace must be the priority of all those in the region who have the power to bring about positive change.” 

‘Lack of leadership and moral integrity’

Students are planning a lot of activities on the lower ground floor of the building they occupy. These include speeches, documentaries and hot meals. The documentaries cover the war in Gaza and tend to follow up with a Zoom meeting with the director, who answers any questions students have. 

A participant at the sit in, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Eastlondonlines: 

“This is happening all over the country because of universities lack of leadership and moral integrity in coming up with a firm political response on what is happening in Gaza. The last statement we heard from them was  October 16.  

“We aren’t receiving clear signs from management, only responses from our actions, that just doesn’t show anyone a clear change of direction. The statement they gave us is inadequate, so we are sending it back with no plans to compromise. 

“It is unacceptable that we are four months into asking the university [for a clear ceasefire call] when they claim to be a progressive institution.” 

It is unclear how long the protest will go on, and for now, students are being told to carry on with their classes on other floors as normal, with the university’s security team standing by to ensure student safety. 

This is not the first time Goldsmiths students have occupied a building to demand changes. They occupied Deptford town hall, part of the campus, for nearly 140 days in an anti-racist protest in 2019 that led to anti-racism training being introduced by the college, among other actions.

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