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UK: UCL students attempt to replicate US protest encampments against Gaza war

Students, outraged over the killing of UCL alumni Refaat Alareer, launch tent encampment to demand the university divest from Israel
Students have vowed to stay at the encampment until UCL commit to ending its partnership with Israeli universities (Areeb Ullah/MEE)

Dozens of students at University College London (UCL), the alma mater of the late Palestinian poet and academic, Refaat Alareer, set up a pro-Palestine encampment on Thursday to demand the university divest from Israel and end any potential complicity in Israel's war on Gaza.

Inspired by the mass encampments rocking universities across the US, students erected orange and green tents on grassy areas of the campus and unfurled a banner in the middle of the quad that read: "UCL Students against genocide."

Other students also slowly ferried in supplies of water and non-perishable foods as they formed a small perimeter to protect their encampment. 

Most of the students who are taking part in the encampment said they were wearing masks over their faces to protect their identities, should the institution target them. 

A spokesperson for the UCL encampment said they were prepared to continue their protest until the university divests from Israeli institutions that "profit from the war in Gaza and occupation of Palestinian lands".

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"In the last seven months, we have witnessed unimaginable horrors taking place in Gaza, and we as students cannot stand by and watch UCL continue to profit from this genocide,” said the spokesperson. 

"It's paramount that institutions we study at do not profit from the ongoing genocide in Gaza, that they answer our demands by divesting from companies who profit from the occupation and to pledge to help rebuild universities in Gaza."

A UCL spokesperson said: "Like many other universities, a small protest with tents is taking place in our quad. We are speaking with the organisers and carefully monitoring the situation. 

"We will manage this in line with our legal duty and commitment to promote freedom of speech within the law whilst ensuring the safety and security of our community and enabling our education and research activity to continue."

Ongoing actions

Since the start of the war in Gaza, UCL has seen several actions against the university and its complicity in possible Israeli war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Last month, UCL students ended a 34-day occupation of a lecture theatre after securing a meeting with the provost of UCL to demand scholarships for Palestinian students from Gaza, end UCL’s partnership with Tel Aviv University, and for UCL to cut ties with arms companies. 

Several UK universities, including the University of Manchester and the University of Warwick, have also joined the growing movement of encampments to demand divestment from Israel. 

The encampments come after violent crackdowns on pro-Palestine solidarity at campuses across the US.

On Thursday, hundreds of riot police descended on a pro-Palestine encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles, and arrested hundreds of protestors.

And on Tuesday, New York City police arrested dozens of students holed up in an academic building at Columbia University and removed a protest encampment the Ivy League school had sought to dismantle for nearly two weeks.

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