Students occupy LSE building in protest over Gaza conflict

 (Ayça Çubukçu)
(Ayça Çubukçu)

Students have set up tents inside a building at the London School of Economics (LSE) to protest against the university’s ties with Israel.

The pro-Palestinian activists are calling for the university to stop its “complicity in genocide of the Palestinian people, arms trade and climate breakdown”.

The occupation of LSE’s Marshall Building, which began shortly after a rally on Tuesday, comes as Pro-Palestinian protests break out at universities across Britain following violent demonstrations at campuses in the US.

Ethan Chua, LSE Student’s Union Palestine Society Member, told the BBC students wanted to disrupt university operations until they met their demands which also include divestment from fossil fuel companies.

He said: “Our main message to LSE management is a call for divestment because we refuse to keep going to a university that is materially complicit in the destruction of our planet and the death of Palestinians.”

The Israeli government has said it has taken efforts to minimise civilian casualties in its operations in Gaza.

Mr Chua explained there were around 50 people occupying the building and they intend to remain at the site until the university meets their demands.

He said they had an agreement with the campus’ security team to allow students with ID to be able to keep accessing the building during the demonstration.

An LSE spokesperson said: "On 14 May 2024, following a rally on the LSE campus, some protestors entered and occupied part of the ground floor of the LSE Marshall Building, highlighting a range of demands relating to investments.

"We will carefully consider the report submitted by the protest group and respond in due course. We will also continue to engage in a peaceful dialogue.

"Our priority continues to be the wellbeing of the LSE  community. Exams, which take place in other areas of campus, are not currently affected by the protest."

A camp was also set up by students at SOAS on May 6, calling for the university to cut associations with businesses that fund military weapons as well as sever ties with Haifa University in Israel.

The SOAS Jewish Society said in a social media post that it stood "shoulder to shoulder with our classmates and colleagues at the SOAS Liberated Zone for Gaza".

Posters and flags have been placed inthe windows. (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)
Posters and flags have been placed inthe windows. (Jordan Pettitt/PA Wire)

SOAS said in a statement: “Our position as a university has always been that protest and dissent can take place at SOAS as long as it remains peaceful and does not undermine the safety and security of all within our community.

“We have written to our students, staff and communicated with protesters to make clear that these principles will govern our approach to the encampment.”

The university added that it was “committed to divesting from any company that breaks the principles set out in [its ethical investment] policy”.

Earlier this month, Goldsmiths students barricaded the university’s library and unveiled a Palestinian flag and list of demands written on a sheet.

Slogans on posters outside the building read “Decolonisation is not a metaphor” and “Shut Down 4 Palestine” and controversially “From The River to the Sea”.

The group said it wanted a meeting with the school’s management who it would pressure on “more scholarships for Palestinian students, revoking of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and scrapping the protest guidelines and use of bodycams at student protests”.

Edward Isaacs, the Union of Jewish Students' president, said: "When the speech becomes unlawful and when there is an environment on campus which becomes toxic and hateful for Jewish students, then that [should be] stamped out because Jewish students deserve to be able to study safely and feel included on campus.”